Refinery Told Not To Dump Pollutants Into Great Barrier Reef . . . Refinery Does So Anyway But Faced No Civil Or Criminal Penalties

220px-Clive_Palmer,_December_2012,_cropped220px-Blue_Linckia_StarfishThere are few areas as beautiful or as fragile as the Great Barrier Reef. however, Queensland Nickel refinery, owned by MP Clive Palmer, wanted to discharge huge amounts of toxic wastewater into the Great Barrier Reef marine park. Two interesting additional factoids: first, they were repeatedly told not to and second, when they did it anyway, government officials decided not to bring any civil or criminal charges against the company.

The company released the nitrogen-laden water into the world heritage area in 2009 and then again in 2011. The dumping in 2011 involved 516 tons of nitrogen into the marine park.

The company had long been a concern over its discharged but, after heavy rains, it asked for the right to dump waste into the pristine area. Those requests were not only denied but the government demanded that the outflow pipe be removed within two years. The company then proceeded to dump the waste anyway.

In 2012, Queensland Nickel declared an intention to dump wastewater into the park continuously for at least three months. This water had nitrogen levels “at least 100 times the allowed maximum level as well as heavy metals and other contaminants”. It also had excessive amounts of ammonia and several other metals. The release was rejected as being the equivalent to “the daily discharge of treated sewage from a city of seven million people”. In an demonstration of hubris, the company was outraged by the refusal of the demand for dumping and denounced the agency considered “obstructionist”. It further threatened a massive lawsuit if it was not allowed to pollute the waters.

Clive Palmer is a member of Parliament as well as a mining magnate who is worth a reported US$895 million. In a press conference, Palmer recently proclaimed that his business had an “excellent” environmental track record and pointed out that “there was no action taken against us over that particular thing you’re talking about.” He called the allegations as just “another beat-up.”

It is true that the Queensland Department of the Environment just renewed his licence for another three years. The question is why.

However, records show that Palmer was previously warned of a catastrophic “disaster” if the contaminated water ponds, known as tailings ponds, were discharged in heavy rainfall.

For its part, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority said that it did all it could to convince the company to correct its flawed system but that its “powers only allow us to approve or reject permit applications. We have never issued a permit for Queensland Nickel to discharge wastewater into the marine park.”

These documents raise incredibly disturbing questions of why such discharges would be allowed without any action taken against the company. Those concerns are magnified by the involvement of a powerful politician.

12 thoughts on “Refinery Told Not To Dump Pollutants Into Great Barrier Reef . . . Refinery Does So Anyway But Faced No Civil Or Criminal Penalties

  1. We do know what will happen to the great barrier reefs now…. They are dying….

    I’m still wondering about the great sink hole in Kentucky now…. Mining or still part of the Chesapeake mess of fracking…., before they sold all interest in Arkansas for 5 billion…..

  2. The Australian government cares not for planet or oceans. The Prime Minister thinks “climate change is crap” and has decided we no longer need a minister for science or women; he’s taken the latter job himself. (In case you’re not aware, he is the same man – a failed seminarian – who told our first female PM that her father “died of shame” over her “lie” about introducing a carbon tax.)

    The communications minister has axed the National Broadband Network in favour of keeping the old copper one. (To infinity and beyond!).

    The immigration minister has militarized immigration, using the Navy to turn back boats carrying “illegal” asylum seekers, and gagged debate on anything that has to do with “operational matters”, which is everything.

    The education minister wants to change the new national curriculum because it’s not religious or jingoistic enough, and will do his best to curtail new school funding models to ensure private religious schools continue to get more money than public schools, where most Australian children are educated.

    The minister for the environment is retrospectively changing the law so he won’t be responsible for allowing people like Clive Palmer to dump waste in the GBR. And members on the board of the GBR Marine Park Authority, which recently gave the go-ahead to dump even more waste, have ties to mining companies.

    The treasurer keeps banging on about a “budget emergency” despite there being no such thing and now says “the age of entitlement is over”.

    All this in just six months. Help!

  3. Insane! Obviously some government body has the poower to shut them down indefinitely & should do so in this case. Now it should go global & also fine the government for complicity by taking no action. Most of the time the government is in the way but action is needed where the planet or oceans are concerned.

  4. Apparently the law is for you and me, not the ‘special’ people. One would think that the more it is obvious, that something would be done..

  5. I wonder how long it will be until the Australian government decides to take action, given who this man is. It would be truly telling as to what priorities are.

  6. As a scuba diver for over 30 years, I have observed first-hand the destruction resulting from policies which treat the ocean as though it were a bottomless dump. Mr. Palmer’s overfed, self-satisfied disinterest is no different from the attitude that produced the recent disaster in West Virginia and daily disasters elsewhere. They are preventable, but they are not prevented because that would require the expenditure of money and no consequences are imposed upon the responsible entities or their owners.

  7. So, if the governments of Canada, Australia, the US, and other countries that routinely pollute that which belongs to all, had the balls and the intelligence to fine these companies, the rewards would be such that funding would become available to pay for an infrastructure that would reduce pollution and the present level of pollution would be reduced due to fines and hopefully imprisonment.

    The worst effect of responsible government would be the increase in the cost of what we consume by an infinitesimally small amount.

    I often wonder if the allowing of this stupidity is simply burying one’s head in the sand.

  8. Money, power, greed and corruption is evident in Australia as well as here at home. And it’s probably always been this way, it’s just that now it is becoming more obvious to more people.

    What a disaster—hopefully the good people in Australia can bring enough pressure to bear that something can be done to punish those responsible and to mitigate the damages to this ecological wonder place.

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