An image showing some of the landscape at Blair Athol coal mine near Clermont
An image showing some of the landscape at Blair Athol coal mine near Clermont

Claims govt released half of $80m mine rehab bond

AN anti-coal group has accused the State Government of releasing $32 million from an $80 million bond to a new mining company despite major concerns flagged over proposed rehabilitation.

TerraCom purchased Clermont's Blair Athol coal mine from Rio Tinto for just a $1 in 2016, which required an $80 million rehabilitation bond.

The bond is an estimated cost of rehabilitating a mine site in case a miner fails to do so.

Lock the Gate Alliance claimed freedom of information documents and corporate statements revealed the government allowed the company to draw down $32 million from this bond, despite TerraCom mining through areas that had previously been rehabilitated.

However a Queensland Treasury spokesman said the estimated rehabilitation cost for the site was determined to be $71.7 million, which was currently being held by the Treasury.

Lock the Gate spokesman Rick Humphries, a former Rio Tinto environmental consultant, said this appeared to be an extraordinary case of a rehabilitation bond "effectively being used as a cash drawdown account for an embattled junior miner".

Blair Athol coal mine was once owned by Rio Tinto. Picture: Dean Whitling.
Blair Athol coal mine was once owned by Rio Tinto. Picture: Dean Whitling.

READ MORE:

New coal mine to employ up to 160 people

Future of prospecting in Clermont questioned

Next step in fight to save Clermont forest

"There are a lot of questions to be asked here as to why the government has paid out $(32) million to TerraCom from a rehabilitation bond account only for them to mine through areas that had already been rehabilitated by Rio Tinto before the sale of this mine," Mr Humphries said.

"It's even more disturbing to see that money has been refunded apparently against the advice of the environment department and despite evidence that rehabilitation topsoil trials had failed."

Lock the Gate Alliance has called for a full inquiry into the management of the rehabilitation bond.

A Department of Environment and Science spokeswoman said it had reduced the financial assurance required from TerraCom by about $5 million in December 2017.

Lock the Gate Alliance has called for a full inquiry into the management of the rehabilitation bond. Pictured is Susan Benedik, Noel Bartley, Vicky Perrin, Penny Taylor and Sue Berry of Lock the Gate Alliance in Bundaberg.
Lock the Gate Alliance has called for a full inquiry into the management of the rehabilitation bond. Pictured is Susan Benedik, Noel Bartley, Vicky Perrin, Penny Taylor and Sue Berry of Lock the Gate Alliance in Bundaberg.

"The reduction was based on changes to the site's management and rehabilitation proposed by TerraCom," the spokeswoman said.

"TerraCom is trialling alternative ways of reinstating topsoil to achieve the same level of rehabilitation, which are different to the mine's previous owners.

"The topsoil trials will not be included in the site's 'rehabilitated area' until they are shown to be successful."

The spokeswoman said the department's current decision on a rehabilitation bond for Blair Athol coal mine was almost $72 million.

"The department is currently assessing a new estimated rehabilitation cost application made by TerraCom in October 2019," she said.

The Daily Mercury contacted TerraCom for comment, but did not receive a response by deadline.