Dee River pollution from Mount Morgan Mine

The Dee River at Dululu, 55km downstream from the Mount Morgan mine, North Queensland.
The aqua colour is due to heavy metal compounds polluting the river.
[Source: (Photo by Ian Townsend), ‘Toxic mine water’, ABC Radio National programme, 20130217,


Mining companies are perhaps the worst form of entity that perpetuates in modern industrial society to inflict ongoing narcisistic destruction upon the Natural landscape.

Mining companies employ consultants to window dress their activities with the effect of putting lipstick on a pig.    They rape pillage and plunder the landscape with impunity because of corrupt governments sharing financial vested interests in the booty.   Mining companies before, during and after their nefarious operations have no concern for the irreversible damage to ecology and landscape, but only for the profit promise.  They are a relic of the 19th Century with the same immorality as the corporate slave traders.

As Mount Lyell in Tasmania remains the moonscape legacy of 19th Century mining, then in Mount Morgan is its sister mining moonscape.

‘Iron Blow Mine’
Mount Lyell’s copper mining legacy of West Coast Tasmania
(Photo by Gary Sauer-Thompson)


Both have irrevocably destroyed all ecology for miles and contaminated river systems with heavy metals and lethal toxins.  Both made their mining companies, mining magnates and complicit investors millions.  Both were abandonned when the ore ran out and the taxpayer has been left to pay for the clean up if ever that could be possible.

And mining companies complain when there is suggestion of a mining tax.  Beyond a mining tax, mining companies in the 21st Century need to be held accountable for their impacts before they dig the first sod.   There needs to be a compulsory bond required from mining companies up front to sufficiently cover the complete remediation of the site according to scale and risk.   Instead of the artificial obscene profit skimming by management and investors that currently ignores the real cost of mining on the landscape, it would bring the profits from mining more in line with corporate social responsibility.

The Dee River is a river in Central Queensland, Australia. The Dee is a tributary of the Dawson River, itself a tributary of the Fitzroy River.  The mining town of Mount Morgan is located on the river. It is crossed by the Burnett Highway a number of times.  The Dee River rises in the Razorback Range south of Bouldercombe Gorge Resources Reserve near Bouldercombe. Tributaries include Limestone Creek, Horse Creek, Hamilton Creek and Nine Mile Creek on the left while Boulder Creek, Oaky Creek and Pruce Creek enter from the right. The Dee River joins the Don River near Rannes.

But Queensland’s Dee River is being killed by toxic water from the old gold mine of Mount Morgan – and is one of thousands of abandoned and unregulated mine sites, many of which are leaking contaminated ‘legacy water’ into river catchments.

In this picture you can see the acid mine water gushing out the side of the mine pit.
(Photo by Ian Townsend,  February 2013)


The largest dam on the Dee River is in mining accounting lingo, ‘Number 7 Dam‘, built for the Mount Morgan Mine.

Number 7 Dam
Mount Morgan Mine in 2011
Lies right next to the Mount Morgan township


Mount Morgan Mine has been a copper, gold and silver mine in northern Queensland, Australia since 1882 up until 1981. Over its lifespan, the mine yielded approximately 262 tonnes of gold, 37 tonnes of silver and 387,000 tonnes of copper and was once the largest gold mine in the world.

Mount Morgan Limited progressively scaled back its workforce and operations until it reached the end of its ore body in 1981.  Since 2007, the mine and mining leases have been owned by Norton Gold Fields and an estimated 327,000 ounces of gold still apparently exists at the site.

Concerns regarding the discolouration of the river’s water and fears of contamination causing irreversible damage to the river were raised back in mid 2011.

In January 2013, the mine pit overflowed… and 700 mm of rain fell after ex-tropical Cyclone Oswald resulted in the 2013 Eastern Australia floods.

Towards the end of February the dam was still spilling acid and heavy metals into the river, and probably continues at the time of writing.


The Dee River at Mount Morgan is highly acidic.
Here the river is badly contaminated with heavy metals, staining the rocks and producing a sludge in the river.
(Photo by Ian Townsend, February 2013)


Contamination fears for Dee River


<<Calls have been made for a full investigation into pollution in the Dee River, with fears of contamination from nearby closed mines.

The Queensland member for Mirani, Ted Malone, said he is worried that the Dee River’s very blue-green colour is unnatural and that something is very wrong with the waterway, according to The Morning Bulletin.

Malone called for a comprehensive inquiry into contaminated water leaking into the river from the Mount Morgan mine, and to identify it as an environmental hazard.

“With controlled releases of highly contaminated mine water this year, as well as seepage offsite, the Dee is in a contemptible state. It is void of life and lined with a precipitate containing heavy metals and it will soon be past the rehabilitation stage if the government does not step in and fully rehabilitate the mine site,” chairman of the Wowan/Dululu Landcare Group, Neal Johnson, said.

These calls come after the QLD Government announced a boost in funding for the rehabilitation of the Mount Morgan and Mount Oxide mines.  It announced $24.2 million in funding to ensure the safe management and rehabilitation of historic mine sites.

Mining minister Stirling Hinchliffe stated that historic mines such as Mt Morgan and Mt Oxide are a legacy of old mining practices and need safe management.

“This is Government is committed to managing problems caused by past mining practices,” Hinchliffe said.  “Problems with old and outdated mining practices were created over many years and will take many years to address but we won’t shy away from that.  That’s why we’re investing a further $24.2 million over four years for mine management and rehabilitation, $6 million of this operational and capital funding will be invested during 2011-12.”

However, Queensland senator Barnaby Joyce stated that the government has failed to address the issue of contaminated water in Mt Morgan’s pit lake.  He said the pit lake is almost full and could leak into the Dee River, exacerbating residents concerns of contamination.

Joyce did state, following the funding, “thankfully now they are doing something”.

QLD mines minister Stirling Hichliffe stated that the government had also just completed a $1.8 million upgrade of the Mt Morgan mine water treatment plant to increase capacity to one billion litres each year, to allay fears of uncontrolled releases.>>


[Source:  ‘Contamination fears for Dee River’, 20110725, by Cole Latimer, ^]


“I never wonder to see men wicked, but I often wonder to see them not ashamed.”

~ Jonathan Swift (1667-1745)


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3 Responses to “Dee River pollution from Mount Morgan Mine”

  1. Barbara Pelczynska says:

    I agree with the article, the mining consultants do window dress mining activities as is evident for example, from their claims of future successful environmental rehabilitation of mine sites when so far rehabilitation of sites where land has been deeply disturbed have failed to fully restore the sites’ original biodiversity, while the toxicity and toxic waste from the mines continue to remain an unsolved problem.

    Here in Bendigo we have tons of arsenic, lead and other heavy metal legacy from the “Bendigo golden era” and topped up by the recent gold mining which eventually will have to be cleaned.

    Unfortunately the mining industry has a powerful lobby and lots of capital which it can spend on campaigns and advertisement promoting itself and demonizing what it sees as threats to its self-interest as happened in the case of Aboriginal Land Rights and lately the mining tax.

    That is why the publicity given by The Habitat Advocate is so important if we are to succeed in countering the mining company’s claims and stop their destruction of the natural environment.

  2. Ray Boyle says:

    The picture described as ‘the No 7 dam’ is incorrectly captioned.

    This is the former Open Cut and the adjacent Sandstone Gully which are now interconnected and filled with water. No7 Dam is some mile or so to the east of the mine and on the Dee River.

  3. Editor says:

    Thanks Ray.

    Do you have any recent updates about this Dee River Pollution issue?

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