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Taxpayers could foot clean-up bill from mine closures, warns scientist

Phil Mulvey, CEO of Environmental Earth Sciences, told a mining seminar in Perth in March that more than 100 mining leases have yet to be surrendered back to State Governments because of inadequate remediation at the mines? closure.
Current legislation demands that miners pay the relevant State Government a bond, which is only returned once a mine site has been remediated to the satisfaction of the State Government. Of the major mines in Australia, only Mary Kathleen in Queensland has had its bond repaid.
?The main environmental issues that prevent surrender of the mine lease at closure relate to the placement of mine waste, the waste?s interaction with water, and colonisation by invasive weeds,? Phil Mulvey said. ?The mine companies are not reaching the environmental benchmarks, and the State agencies are refusing to take back the land.?
Mulvey, whose company specialises in groundwater and soil remediation, told more than 100 seminar attendees that State Governments have been reluctant to take back leases for closed mines because the potential environmental liability is so great.
?There are hundreds of mine bonds and securities being held by State Governments because the mine owners have closed the mine but have not remediated the environment to the satisfaction of the regulators,? said Mr Mulvey. 
He told the seminar that mine operations and decommissioning phases are usually conducted separately by mine owners, leaving environmental problems at the end of the mine?s life. These were problems which could have been managed effectively had they been built into an ongoing process of the mine?s operation and decommissioning.
Mulvey said mine owners would be spurred into action over the next two years with Australia?s adoption of International Accounting Standard 137 which requires that companies fully cost environmental liability onto their balance sheets.
Environmental Earth Sciences is a firm that specialises in the repair of landscapes and design of mine waste repositories to avoid adverse impacts on the environment. The firm is currently conducting a national seminar series for the mining industry called Mine Waste and Closure: Liabilities and Responsibilities.
Source: Environmental Earth Sciences

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