It was hard to see any upside to ex-Tropical Cyclone Oswald’s prolonged battering of Queensland last week.
Yet the swollen Fitzroy River now overrunning Rockhampton provided Bowen Basin miners with the perfect window of opportunity to drain long-stored waters that have hampered operations.
Four mines operated by the BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance started pumping out water into the Fitzroy catchment under a pilot program approved by the State Government in November, which allows them to make releases with higher levels of salinity.
They were among 28 mines that emptied pits into a river system so enlarged that it will dilute any pollutants.
The coal industry maintains the practice is well-monitored, causes no environmental damage and adds a negligible amount to floodwaters. They need to rid themselves of about 250GL, or roughly half the water filling Sydney Harbour. But farmers, environmentalists and the Greens attacked the releases as a threat to the land, communities and the Great Barrier Reef.
London-listed mining companies mining coal in Queensland also include Anglo American, Rio Tinto and Xstrata.