The Queensland Government inherited responsibility for the management of Linc Energy’s (Linc) underground coal gasification (UCG) site in Hopeland (near Chinchilla) after Linc entered liquidation, and took immediate action to secure the facility.
The Department of Resources has overall management responsibility for the site. General queries in relation to the site can be directed to 13 QGOV (13 74 68).
The Department of Environment and Science (the department) is actively involved in the environmental management of the site including ongoing monitoring activities and community and landholder engagement.
The department continues to undertake environmental management actions at the site including the expansion and maintenance of the groundwater monitoring network. The ongoing assessment of groundwater conditions is a key component of the environmental management process. This work is largely funded by financial assurance, which the department secured from the Linc’s liquidators in late 2016.
The current groundwater monitoring network surrounds the perimeter of the former Linc operational area and was completed in April 2018. Sampling from this and other existing monitoring locations is ongoing.
Expanded groundwater monitoring program
In November 2019, the department commenced planning and preparations for the installation of additional groundwater monitoring bores on the site and on the nearby, Kummerows Road reserve. The installation of shallow and deep groundwater monitoring bores to the north and south of the operational area respectively, will enhance the department’s understanding of potential groundwater impacts that may be associated with former UCG activities at the property.
Installation of the four (4) additional groundwater monitoring bores was completed in late November 2020. The department has rehabilitated the disturbed area along Kummerows Road and sampling of the new bores will occur during the first quarter of 2021.
The department will continue to provide landholders and local community with progress updates and relevant information throughout the development of these works.
A part of the department’s ongoing environmental management of the site, regular communication and engagement activities are undertaken with landholders immediately adjacent to the site about ongoing groundwater monitoring programs and general management of the site.
Community members who have questions about current activities on the site, or who wish to report any potential incidents, should contact the department via DESInvestigation@des.qld.gov.au or by contacting phone the pollution hotline on 1300 130 372.
CSG operations and compliance
Established or developing coal seam gas (CSG) activities within proximity of the former Linc site are required to undertake groundwater monitoring and other environmental compliance activities as a requirement of their environmental authority (EA) conditions.
If a CSG operator wishes to undertake or expand their activities in the Hopeland region, they must submit an application to the department which will be rigorously assessed on a case-by-case basis.
To find out more information about CSG operations within the Hopeland region including current EA amendments that are being assessed and are open for public submission, visit the department’s environmental authority register.
Linc investigation and prosecution
Environmental Protection Order
In May 2016, the department issued an Environmental Protection Order (EPO) to a ‘related person’ of Linc. The EPO requires the recipient to take steps to decommission most of the site’s dams and provide a bank guarantee of $5.5 million to secure compliance with the EPO.
The recipient appealed the EPO to the Planning and Environment Court. The Appeal is currently stayed until the finalisation of other proceedings.
Investigation and prosecution of Linc and former executives
On 9 April 2018, a Brisbane District Court jury convicted Linc of all five counts of wilfully and unlawfully causing serious environmental harm, in contravention of the Environmental Protection Act 1994. The verdict is the result of the largest and most complex environmental investigation conducted by the environmental regulator in Queensland’s history.
On 11 May 2018, the Brisbane District Court sentenced Linc Energy Limited to a fine of $4.5 million for five offences of wilfully and unlawfully causing serious environmental harm, over a period of seven years, in contravention of the Environmental Protection Act 1994. Convictions were also recorded against the company.
The Queensland Government has charged five former Linc Energy executives over the operation of the site. On 5 March 2020, a Brisbane magistrate decided there was sufficient evidence to commit the former officers to stand trial for failing to ensure that Linc complied with the Environmental Protection Act 1994.