Mine 'bond clean' to take years

IT WILL take Rio Tinto at least six years to clean-up the soon-to-be buried Blair Athol Mine in Central Queensland, creating what must feel like the most drawn-out bond clean in history.

For the Queensland Government to give the $84 million bond back - in this case called a land assurance - the mining giant will spend half a decade repairing the site for grazing or re-vegetation.

Blair Athol will be shut down "before December", according to Rio Tinto, but 12 months will pass before the site near Clermont in Central Queensland begins rehabilitation.

It announced the closure on August 8, affecting the 170 staff and contractors on site.

About 30 would be kept for the parts of Blair Athol still used by the nearby Clermont Mine, including its coal handling and preparation plant.

The State takes the money as insurance against a mine falling into administration, leaving a dangerous and potentially polluting blight abandoned on the landscape.

The figure is based on the level of "disturbance" on the site, which once flagged for closure amounts to the operation's footprint.

Thanks to Blair Athol's 30-year mining history and reputation as one of the state's oldest mines, the bond was bound to be massive.

In 2011 alone, it mined 2.8 million tonnes of coal even as it was winding down its operations.

Between now and the final shut-down, Rio - through its subsidiary Queensland Coal - will determine what it does next.

When and how were yet to be worked out, according to a Rio spokesman.

Until it does, the state will hold on to its $84,080,890.

Minister for Environment Andrew Powell said he had not yet spoken to Rio Tinto about Blair Athol but was confident the mine would be rehabilitated.

Once repaired, the area it mined for 30 years will return to being state property, either as unallocated land or freehold blocks.

BLAIR ATHOL BY NUMBERS

  • 84 - millions in land assurance (bond) paid to the State Government
  • 11.3 - million tonnes of coal mined at its peak in 12 months (2009)
  • 2.8 - million tonnes of coal mined in 2011.
  • 3 - months left until it is shut down
  • 1 - years until rehabilitation starts
  • 6 - years until the site can be reused.


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