Ensham, near Emerald, was awash in 2008 and pumped vast quantities of floodwater into the catchment.
Ensham, near Emerald, was awash in 2008 and pumped vast quantities of floodwater into the catchment. Contributed

Mine seeks discharge

THE Central Queensland mine responsible for raising health fears after pumping huge quantities of floodwater into the Fitzroy River catchment in 2008 has applied for permission to discharge 20,000 megalitres from its pits.

Ensham Resources chief executive Peter Westerhuis says the mine, about 200km west of Rockhampton, has been storing the water on site since the floods at the end of 2010.

He says it is critical to Ensham's operations to pump out the water so it can access the coal stock within the flooded pits.

But the application for a Transitional Environmental Program approval from the Department of Environment and Resource Management brought a fierce response yesterday from Cr Greg Belz, the chairman of Rockhampton Regional Council's water committee.

He wants Ensham's application to be blocked and says he believed the Fitzroy River Water Quality Management Group, established after the 2008 flood and subsequent furore sparked by grossly elevated salt levels in the catchment, would oppose it.

"Our raw water quality and the health of the Fitzroy River environment is our future and cannot be compromised," he said.

"The mining industry is very important to the economy and future of this region, but the quality of the water in the Fitzroy River is much more important and it must be protected."

Cr Belz said the community was already concerned about the elevated salinity in the river. During the crisis in 2008, the amount of salt in the water in the Fitzroy Barrage soared to more than 120mg/l while in Blackwater it reached more than 200mg/l. FRW has received complaints about the saltiness of tap water in Rockhampton where salinity is currently four times the normal level at around 80mg/l.

Ensham is proposing to release 300 megalitres a day into the Nogoa River which, it claims, is experiencing high flows to ensure adequate dilution and protection of the water quality.

The amount the mine is seeking to pump is a small fraction of the 138 gigalitres it discharged in 2008.