Mining has produced a lot of wealth for more than a century. The royalties that mining companies have paid to the Queensland Government have helped build infrastructure such as schools and hospitals. Enormous profits have also been made by some mining company shareholders. However, there has been a cost. One of them is that mining companies that fail can leave behind environmental disasters.
Across Queensland there are over 15,000 abandoned mines. The map above provided by the Queensland government shows a sample of the abandoned mines in the state. Some are quite small but hundreds are large and many are environmental time-bombs waiting to pollute surrounding land and water.
The Queensland Government spends $6 million per year on its abandoned mines unit. That's less than $400 per year on average per abandoned mine including staff wages. At Mt Morgan alone, the government is spending around $500,000 to clean up the acid mine water that is flowing into the Dee River and making it unfit for swimming or drinking.
In many cases, little more is done than putting up a sign saying "Do not enter". Mackay Conservation Group believes that leaving abandoned mines to look after themselves is not enough. We think that significant money needs to be spent making abandoned mines safe for people and the environment. The question is, who will pay?