Clive Palmer’s troubled refinery Queensland Nickel is facing further problems with a magistrate today ordering the company to stand trial for alleged breaches of environmental regulations.
The company has been charged with two counts of wilfully contravening its environmental authority.
It is alleged one of its tailings ponds at its nickel refinery near Townsville in north Queensland overflowed last year.
The company indicated it would plead not guilty to the charges when the case returns to court mid next year.
Lawyers for the Department of Environment and Heritage accused the company of poor management and reckless conduct during a committal hearing today in the Townsville Magistrates Court.
Peter Davis QC, acting on behalf of Queensland Nickel, said the company would defend the charges.
He said the event had been the result of extreme rainfall.
Palmer asked for taxpayer assistance
Mr Palmer this week appealed to the Queensland Government for financial help for Queensland Nickel, after a slump in the commodity’s price.
The operation is on the verge of going into administration after the West Australian Supreme Court rejected Mr Palmer’s bid for $ US48 million ($ 66m) from his estranged Chinese business partner CITIC.
The ABC’s AM program has been told that a Queensland Government-commissioned audit by KPMG of the company’s business operations and financial position showed it was able to continue operating and trade out of its financial difficulties.
Treasurer Curtis Pitt said any help would be short-term.
“If there was to be assistance from the Government it would be on a temporary basis, but of course the form of that assistance will depend on a number of factors,” Mr Pitt said.
“We do not have all the information to hand, we are consistently speaking with Queensland Nickel to get that information so that we can have a well-rounded view formed as to what options are available to Government.”
Mr Pitt said Mr Palmer should use his own wealth to help the refinery in the long-term.
“I think that most people would expect that Mr Palmer should pull out all stops to ensure that he is using his broader wealth and his broader business empire to ensure that this plant remains open,” he said.
“At the end of the day it is a private company, and any decision to close the … refinery will be a decision for Mr Palmer.
“Ultimately our Government is very clearly focused on the interests of workers.”
Topics: business-economics-and-finance, mining-industry, mining-environmental-issues, mining-rural, clive-palmer, townsville-4810, qld