THE Lady Annie mine owner CST Minerals admitted it recklessly neglected infrastructure maintenance that could have led to serious environmental harm.
The company will have 60 days to pay out a total $210,000 after it was sentenced in the Mount Isa Magistrates Court on Thursday.
CST Minerals operations manager Brett Foster and senior environmental officer Mike Limpus was present in the court room when magistrate Stephen Guttridge issued the sentence.
$50,000 would be paid to the Kalkadoon Native Title Aboriginal Corporation and about $10,000 is to be paid in legal fees and investigation costs.
No conviction was recorded against CST Minerals, which owns the mine around 100 kilometres north west of Mount Isa.
The company pleaded guilty to three counts of contravening an environmental authority condition. They “wilfully” did so for two of the charges.
The charges were made after heavy rainfall on November 30, 2014, which caused the collapse of critical infrastructure.
Mr Guttridge said the company recklessly failed to regularly check or maintain the infrastructure and prepare adequately for the wet season, and by not doing so had potential to cause great environmental harm.
He said neglect might had been due to redundancies and lack of adequate staff before the storm.
Mr Guttridge said that the maximum penalty for breaching environmental authority conditions had recently increased significantly, from $2 million to $9 million.
Representing CST Minerals was barrister Ralph Devlin, who acknowledged that Lady Annie mine already held the record for the most expensive fine for breaching environmental regulations.
The former owner of the mine was CopperCo, which in March 2012 had been fined $500,000 for causing serious environmental harm by an uncontrolled release of contaminated water three years previous.
The barrister said the escaped water on that previous occasion poisoned 52 kilometres of nearby creeks.
“That defendant has absolutely no nexus to the defendant in court today," Mr Devlin said.
“This company has no previous convictions.”
He said the infrastructure collapsed in a “one in 50” year storm. “It explains but does not excuse the collapse,” he said.
Mr Devlin said there was a compliance inspection at the mine on October 8, 2014. No concerns had been raised. In January the following year, after the incident, the Department of Environment listed various concerns.
“The sad fact is less than two months before the downpour the offending area got a complete tick,” he said.
“Photos show a very tidy premises indeed.
“It’s something of a mystery but the company doesn’t come here to argue about it.
“Unfortunately a decision by the company very close to the date of the downpour was directing its resources to cathode stripping in the plant.
“Staff were taken from maintenance issues.”
Mr Devlin said the company had proven to be a good corporate citizen, having donated to LifeFlight Rescue, the Royal Flying Doctor Service, and sponsors of local events including the Yelvertoft Station Campdraft and the Quamby Rodeo.