WHEN the uranium mine at Mary Kathleen was closed down 30 years ago, adjacent land owners Margaret Campbell and her family were promised the mine would never be disturbed again.
But the state government's renewed interest in a $4 billion rare earth deposit at the mine's tailings dam, now has the nearby graziers concerned for the welfare of their land and livelihood.
Mary Kathleen's uranium mine operated from 1958 to 1963 but resumed production from 1976 to 1982, at which time the site was closed for rehabilitation.
Mrs Campbell and her family have been working cattle on the land surrounding the mine and deserted township for generations and still own homes in the old Mary Kathleen township.
She said when the mine was closed and the tailings dam capped with rock, she thought the risk of working and living nearby a working mine was a thing of the past.
"We knew all that went on and we know that all is not sweetness in life but when they cleaned everything up it was supposed to be left that way," she said.
"The town area was all returned into our pastoral lease and we still have a few houses up there."
She said her biggest fear, if mining was to resume, was the potential for contaminated dust to blow down the valley and onto their property, tainting the land and livestock.
The contaminated liquid in the Mary Kathleen pit on the hill above the old processing plant was originally drained out of the tailings dam, according to Mrs Campbell.
The sediments in the dam were scraped into a pile and comprise of valuable rare earths as well as other radioactive elements and covered with layers of rock and soil to contain the radon gas and prevent all the elements from contaminating the environment.
Mrs Campbell's son and third generation grazier Ian Campbell lives and breathes the cattle industry on the Campbell's 700 square mile property surrounding the mine.
He said the mismanagement of the mine's recovery could be seen by looking at the land around the latent mine.
"All the ground is covered with acid and salts, it's just gross," he said
Water seeping out of the tailings damn through a purpose-built drainage system releases acidic, metal-rich, radioactive waters into former evaporation ponds and local drainage system.
Mr Campbell said every plant along the stretch of the Cameron River alongside the mine was dead except for noxious weeds.
"All the creek systems on the property you can camp at and catch fish in but not down there... you just can't go near it," he said.
"There's not even a sign down there to say the water is contaminated and not to swim in there.
"They talk about strict standards but that's a joke - there are none."
"Even where they built Mary Kathleen they used the waste rock from the mine for the creek crossings in the town, and curbing and erosion control over where people lived ,and it all had too much of a radiation reading and it is all still there."
Mr Campbell said there wasn't much he could do to stop people with exploration permits from drilling and surveying the land because the open-cut mine and tailings dam located in the Selwyn Range between Mount Isa and Cloncurry was owned by the state government.
He too thought the mine would be left alone after the environmental after-effects of operations at Mary Kathleen remained largely un-resolved.
"We probably always thought it was a possibility because they tried for years to find an economic approach to extract the rare earths and couldn't find a viable system, but they have now," he said.