Queensland Alumina Limited (QAL) has been fined $500,000, one of the largest penalties for an environmental breach in Queensland, after pleading guilty to one offence of unlawfully causing serious environmental harm, and one offence of contravening a condition of an Environmental Authority (EA).
QAL holds an EA to carry out various environmental activities, including chemical manufacturing, chemical storage and waste transfer at its alumina refinery in Parsons Point, Gladstone.
On 8 September 2018, an issue with an overpressure safety system caused the release of approximately two to three tonnes of alkaline bauxite slurry (containing contaminants, including sodium hydroxide) to the atmosphere.
The plume travelled approximately 11km south and caused serious environmental harm, including damage to vehicles and office buildings in the South Trees Industrial Estate.
This morning (December 18) the company pleaded guilty and was sentenced in the Gladstone Magistrates Court. Convictions were recorded.
QAL was ordered to pay $1,500 in legal costs and $4,488 in investigation costs. The Court also ordered that $100,000 of the fine be paid as a Public Benefit Order for the purpose of a project aimed at enhancing the environment in the Gladstone region.
As the environmental regulator, the Department of Environment and Science takes compliance seriously. The department has set clear expectations about adhering to acceptable standards of environmental performance.
EA holders must comply with the conditions of their EAs and associated responsibilities to ensure that their activities do not cause environmental harm.
Today’s court outcome demonstrates that the department is doing its job in enforcing Queensland’s environmental laws.