QRC chief executive Michael Roche warned that if there was a delay in the reduction of the amount of water in mines it would risk being an indefinite problem and worsening as the result of another big wet.
“What we have sought from the new state government is a transition program to start shifting water this wet season and over subsequent wet seasons,” he said.
“This is not about compromising environmental standards but taking advantage of the heavy rainfall that nature traditionally throws at central and north Queensland over summer.
“More disturbing is that some 19 months after the worst of the flooding, our mines are still holding in the vicinity of 250 to 300 gigalitres of water.
“And there are limited prospects for large-scale releases before the next wet season, which begins officially in October.”
Roche said coal companies were investing heavily in preparation for the wet season including the construction of additional onsite water storages, pipelines, pumps and water treatment plant.
“Queensland’s coal mines cannot hope to operate efficiently or anywhere near capacity while they must move vast amounts of water to stay in production,” he said.
“I am pleased to report that we are getting a good hearing on this issue and others from the new Queensland government.”
“Thanks to the cumbersome environmental processes under the previous state government, the opportunity to pump out the pits while local rivers and streams flowed strongly evaporated much faster than the problem itself.”
The Queensland coal industry was on track to export more than 200 million tonnes of coal in 2010-11.
However, extensive flooding across the main coal-producing regions – the Bowen and Surat basins – costs some 40Mt in scheduled production and exports.
Based on the ruling average price, Queensland lost around $7 billion in sales.
“I don’t believe a single Queensland coal mine escaped unscathed,” Roche said.
“There were the inevitable aftermath issues … the repair bills for infrastructure, site works and damage to local communities.
“And then of course, the greatest legacy liability of all – water. Literally overnight, open cut pits became lakes.”