News Wrap

IN THIS morning’s News Wrap: water rules eased for coal mines; Doyles Creek coal licence letter tendered at ICAC; and miners seek radioactive rethink.

Staff Reporter

Water rules eased for coal mines

The Queensland government will expand its pilot program to allow coal companies to discharge more excess water from their mines into local rivers by next wet season, according to the Australian Financial Review.

The move will escalate tensions with environmental groups, which accuse the Liberal National Party government of lowering environmental standards for the mining industry.

It follows revelations that more than one-quarter of Queensland coal mines that released excess water into rivers and creeks during the January floods allegedly had breached environmental guidelines.

Mining giant Rio Tinto was fined $2220 for the breach but the state opposition said it was a slap on the wrist that would not deter future breaches.

Doyles Creek coal licence letter tendered at ICAC

A corruption inquiry has heard that former New South Wales Labor minister Ian Macdonald’s department told industry that unexplored coal resources in the Hunter Valley were limited and likely to be put out to tender before he gave a lucrative exploration licence in the region to former union official John Maitland and his associates, according to the Australian Financial Review.

An October 2005 letter, tendered at the Independent Commission Against Corruption on Friday, showed the Department of Primary Industries rejected a request by mining company Independent Coal for an exploration licence over land at Doyles Creek near Newcastle because it was “a possible tender area … in the future”

“The department recognises there are limited unallocated coal resources in the Hunter,” the letter said.

The licence went to Doyles Creek Mining, a company then chaired by Maitland, in December 2008. There was no competitive tender.

Miners seek radioactive rethink

Uranium miners have demanded changes to laws so that the "mild" radioactivity that is unique to the sector is no longer a trigger for federal environmental assessments, according to The Australian.

The Australian Uranium Association, whose members include BHP Billiton and ERA – the operator of the Ranger mine at Jabiluka in the Northern Territory, said uranium mining and the milling that made yellowcake should no longer be defined as a "nuclear action" under the federal law known as the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

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