When the mine was originally shut down, the cost of cleaning up the area was estimated at up to $30 million.
After three years of deliberation, Australia's Northern Territory Justice Stephen Southwood concluded that the region's Primary Industry and Resources Department poorly monitored the Francis Creek mine site.
The dispute was initiated between the Department and Territory Resources, formerly known as Territory Iron. Territory Resources was the company tasked with conducting inspections of the site in question but was bought out by Gold Valley Holdings.
In 2016, the government of the Northern Territory bid to increase the rehabilitation bond for the site from $5.4 million to $18 million. The court's decision included that the bond could not be increased now that the mining project has not been operational since 2014.
When the mine was originally shut down, the cost of cleaning up the area was estimated at up to $30 million. Environmental red flags were already discovered in 2013, including acid water contamination in Jasmine Creek, inadequate monitoring of water quality and pit backfilling.
Northern Territory government failures allowed substandard iron ore mining operations to continue unchecked and unsecured causing environmental harm near the town of Pine Creekhttps://t.co/85praoWy0U— Susan Metcalfe (@susanamet) May 4, 2019
According to the judge, there is no record of any field inspection reports since the beginning of operations in the mine site. While this would likely place blame on Territory Resources, the Department was ultimately responsible for ensuring whether the company's management plan was suitable for minimizing environmental damage or not.
"The department was not precluded from reassessing the amount of the plaintiff's security by inspecting, monitoring and investigating the mining activities carried out by the plaintiff," the judge explained and added that "the department allowed the substandard mining management system of the plaintiff to persist for far too long."
Gold Valley Holdings is now responsible for monitoring the Frances Creek site, and according to chairman Yuzheng Zie, have spent about $15 million rehabilitating the site.