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Millions of taxpayer dollars pour into the toxic mess at Mount Morgan

The rehabilitation and exploitation of the Mount Morgan mine has turned into a taxpayer money magnet after the Federal Government’s Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility threw another $66 million at the project.

Jan 17, 2023, updated Jan 17, 2023
The Mt Morgan mine in central Queensland

The Mt Morgan mine in central Queensland

Heritage Minerals has a plan to breathe new life into the Mount Morgan mine by reprocessing old tailings and rehabilitating the site, but it follows a list of failures and millions of dollars in taxpayer funds thrown at solving its contamination problems.

Heritage believes there is potential to process nearly 10 million tonnes of existing gold ore tailings, recovering an estimated 263,000 ounces of gold and 5,600 tonnes of copper.

But there is further potential to go beyond that. A feasibility study found the plan to exploit the tailings would take five years but there was a potential to extend the project by up to 15 years.

The State Government last year also provided an unspecified amount of funding to Heritage’s plans.

Mining at Mount Morgan closed more than 30 years ago and has since been managed by the State Government. The biggest issue with the site is the water-filled pit which is now filled with toxic water and in the floods of 2011 this overflowed into the nearby Dee River, turning it blue.

NAIF said its $66 million loan to Heritage Minerals was for the construction of a tailings processing plant and associated infrastructure, and to allow for rehabilitation of the site.

The proposed plant at Mount Morgan will treat two million tonnes of tailings a year. A new water treatment plant to be built as part of the project would improve water quality in the Dee River.

Minister for Resources and Northern Australia Madeleine King said the project was forecast to create 250 new direct construction jobs and up to 150 operational jobs, with further indirect jobs promised alongside economic and social benefits for the wider Rockhampton region totalling an estimated $849 million.

“This much-needed project will create jobs and invigorate economic activity in the region,” King said.

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“It is an excellent example of renewal in the resources industry.”

NAIF chief executive Craig Doyle said that with the Queensland Government also supporting the project, he was confident the proponents would deliver the infrastructure to ensure the region secures the forecast public benefit.

“The Mount Morgan project is consistent with the Australian Government’s agenda of diversifying economies and creating regional economies,” Doyle said.

The State Government’s funding was dependent the project also receiving Commonwealth Government and private sector financial support.

 

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