Queensland government to review guidelines for river diversions

THE Queensland Department of Natural Resources and Mines is set to review guidelines governing the design, construction and maintenance of stream diversions in the Bowen Basin to improve environmental outcomes and make such structures more sustainable in the long term.

Staff Reporter

The review is subject to feedback received from Central Queensland coal mining operations currently using a new methodology to improve diversions on their leases.

The methodology, developed by Melbourne-based natural resources consultants Earth Tech, was recently awarded a research excellence award by the Australian Coal Association Research Program (ACARP).

“We don’t expect much, if any, negative feedback, which means that we’re almost certain to make this methodology integral to our local guidelines,” said Maurie Clewley, manager of Water Management and Use in central Queensland.

There are some 50 mining-related stream diversions in the Basin. A further 15 diversions are expected to be constructed over the next 10 years.

Earch Tech’s research found that some 70% of existing diversions are in need of rehabilitation to achieve long term sustainability. The total cost of such undertaking is estimated at $50 million.

Clewley said the Department considered the long-term sustainability of the stream diversions as the “key issue”.

It was already encouraging the mining industry, about to address the problem, to take account of the Earth Tech research principles.

He said the principles should be applied in a manner that meets, and makes allowance for, the demands of local conditions.

“We certainly don’t plan to impose rigidity with our guidelines because local conditions and circumstances vary and that must be taken into account in the implementation of the research principles.

“In fact, we anticipate that sometimes mines will operate under serious constraints that make it difficult or even impossible to achieve ideal outcomes.

“But on the whole the application of the Earth Tech study will result in greatly improved stream diversions on Central Queensland’s coal fields.”

Clewley said it was too early provide a detailed overview of the likely changes to the guidelines.

However the Department was certain to continue to discourage the use of drop structures wherever possible which he said were inherently unstable in the longer term.

Also there was a strong argument supporting the principle of maintaining main stream length.