Crisis over release of mine water

A VOLUME of water roughly two-and-a-half times that held by Sydney Harbour is currently stagnating in Queensland mine sites, following five years of particularly wet summers.

Details from an independent report by water experts Gilbert & Sutherland to be released by the Queensland Government - and an excerpt obtained exclusively by APN - show 250 gigalitres of remnant water is shared among 36 coal mines in the Fitzroy Basin catchment.

It is an area covering much of Central Queensland west of Rockhampton.

Mines in the Isaac River catchment were carrying almost double the legacy water of other catchments, about 1.1 gigalitres, with those mines in the MacKenzie and Nogoa river areas following next.

The data found a combination of fierce wet seasons since the summer of 2007-08, and restrictive legislation by the former Labor government introduced in 2008 contributed to so many mines being stuck with the huge volumes of liquid.

"This (regulation) change, in combination with above average rainfall conditions over recent years, has lead to the accumulation of excess water on-site," it stated.

To solve the issue, the report found the government must consider its regulations and mines must look at how they prepare for wet seasons.

Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney told Parliament on Thursday the flooding of mines cost Queensland $750 million in lost royalties as the impact of remaining water continued to hobble coal production.

"(It is) money that's needed to build our roads, to run our schools and hospitals and all the functions the state carries out," he said.

In the same speech, Mr Seeney said there was no sign water downstream of the mines had any more salt following the discharges.

The report found the trapped water in each of the 36 mines had salt levels averaging 5000 micro-siemens per centimetre.

Sea water is estimated at 10 times that.

The report suggested that tackling the issue would take changes to either regulations which govern how mines release their water and changes to how mines deal with the run-off.

This latest release comes ahead of the full report of the government's mine water pilot being released in Rockhampton this week.

Just four BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance mines were involved in the pilot water release plan: Goonyella Riverside, Peak Downs, Saraji and the now-mothballed Norwich Park.