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Byron Shire
May 10, 2021

Palmer’s toxic refinery water flowed into reef

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The Great Barrier Reef is being slowly killed off by toxic pollution, dredging and development along the nearby Queensland coast, according to thousands of people who joining protests recently against various  controversial projects. The latest revelation that a nickel refinery released tailings water into the marine park with the government doing nothing about it adds to that concern.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority knows that a nickel refinery owned by Clive Palmer has been dumping toxic tailing water into the reef, but has done nothing.

Documents obtained under Freedom of Information laws show that the Queensland Nickel refinery, near Townsville, released the tailings water into the park without permission in 2009 and 2011.

Before the establishment of the park in 2004 the refinery regularly discharged tailings into the area.

But the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) has been refusing the refinery permission since 2004.

According to the documents, Queensland Nickel has been releasing toxic waste into the park anyway.

Mr Palmer has emphatically denied the dumping.

He dismissed the reports, saying no action had ever been taken over the allegations.

‘We didn’t breach any environmental laws,’ he told the National Press Club on Wednesday.

‘That’s just a furphy, it’s another beat up.’

The company claims the discharges are necessary to avoid an emergency if the tailings ponds overflowed.

The authority has been aware of the unauthorised releases since at least December 2012, but hasn’t taken any action against the company.

‘The authority did not prosecute Queensland Nickel for this breach,’ GBRMPA general manager Andrew Skeat wrote in an email at that time.

‘However, the authority reserves its right to take action against Queensland Nickel Pty Ltd for the discharges in 2011 and any future discharges.’

Mr Skeat also said that Mr Palmer’s company had a history of poor water management and had not implemented any plans to prevent high tailings pond levels.

He was equally scathing of the state government’s inaction.

‘The Queensland government has been ineffective in proactively regulating or enforcing the refinery’s water management plans,’ Mr Skeat wrote.

Premier Campbell Newman said Mr Palmer’s Yabulu refinery had been a source of ongoing concern.

He said the state government was concerned about the jobs of over 900 people at the refinery and the refinery’s environmental obligations.

‘Mr Palmer bought this refinery knowing that it came with these environmental issues and these obligations,’ Mr Newman said.

‘He got it for a very low price because of those obligations.’

Further comment has been sought from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.

Mr Palmer said he’d spent millions of dollars cleaning up the refinery since buying it from BHP, and the allegations had been used for ‘political purposes’ for years.


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