Mining bosses face legal action for environmental breaches that allegedly caused workers to suffer gas poisoning at a coal-based fuel producer’s underground gas project in the Darling Downs region.
Multiple former Linc Energy executives have been charged with breaking environmental rules at the collapsed Hopeland Underground Coal Gasification Project near Chinchilla, 350km west of Brisbane.
Gas poisoning claims
Former CEO Peter Bond (pictured left), general managers Donald Schofield and Daryl Rattai, and chief operation officers Stephen Dumble and Jacobus Terblanche allegedly failed to make sure the proponent complied with the Environmental Protection Act. They are charged with wilfully and unlawfully causing serious environmental harm.
The allegations came after the State Department of Environment and Heritage Protection finished investigating the four employees who became unwell from suspected gas poisoning. The department discovered evidence of acidic soil near the work site and toxic traces of methane, hydrogen, carbon monoxide and hydrogen sulphide according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
Largest ever investigation
The process took six years, spanning the years 2007 to 2013, costed millions of taxpayer dollars and was touted to be the largest single investigation ever undertaken by the environmental regulator.
The department had claimed at a Dalby Magistrates Court committal proceeding that workers on the site suffered from “significant concentrations” of the gases, allegedly causing some to become unwell.
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Linc Energy, which has been in voluntary administration since April 2016 with debts estimated to top $300 million, will continue to defend the allegations at the next court date scheduled for 29 November 2020.
If found guilty each former executive could face up to five years in prison and the company could be fined up to $8.8 million.