Two government ministers have responded to accusations their departments have placed the environment in danger and exposed the state to legal action over their handling of Queensland mine sites.
An Auditor-General’s report into resource industries criticises the departments of Environment and Heritage Protection and Natural Resources and Mines.
The report comes as a federal inquiry questions how millions of tonnes of dredge spoil leaked from a bund wall in Gladstone Harbour in 2011 -12, but had to be discovered by a visitor.
Questions continue to be asked over the lack of scrutiny of Queensland Nickel’s tailings dam north of Townsville.
Auditor-General Andrew Greaves’ report, tabled in state parliament on April 1, highlighted poor communication, few proactive inspections, inadequate monitoring and poor data collection.
His 2013-14 report delivers a damning finding on the actions of the departments.
‘‘EHP is not fully effective in its supervision, monitoring and enforcement of environmental conditions and is exposing the state to liability and the environment to harm unnecessarily,’’ the report stated.
Nine recommendations call for major improvements in both departments by June 2015.
The report highlights appalling communication between the EHP and NRM departments.
The two departments still use different means of identifying projects and do not share information to indicate if mining companies are meeting their environmental conditions, the report finds.
Mr Greaves said there was ‘‘real risk’’ that environmental damage was occurring ‘‘undetected’’ because environmental inspectors were not watching.
However, Environment Minister Andrew Powell said the report - despite covering events in 2012 and 2013 - covered problems when the LNP came to office, not since.
‘‘While my colleagues in Education and Health inherited long waiting lists and maintenance backlogs, the fact is that as Minister for Environment, I inherited a compliance system from DERM that was clunky, ineffective and outdated,’’ he said.
That software system - called EcoTrak - is now being replaced.
Despite the Mr Greaves’ findings, Mr Powell insisted his department did know which projects were not meeting their environmental conditions.
‘‘There are shortcomings in the way in which the data is recorded – which is what the Auditor-General points out.’’
A spokesperson for Minister for Natural Resources and Mines Andrew Cripps said NRM only monitored health and safety at mine sites, not environmental issues.
The spokesman conceded it did manage abandoned mine sites and had restored 200 abandoned mines since March 2012.
‘‘In 2013, more than 50 abandoned mine sites were inspected and assessed in areas ranging from Stanthorpe near the Queensland-New South Wales border up to Far North Queensland,’’ the spokesperson said.
‘‘High-risk shafts have already been remediated at Passchendaele and Ipswich in southern Queensland; Calliope and Opalton in central Queensland and in Herberton and Ravenswood in the north.”