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Fears Ita may have sparked tailings dam spill at Clive Palmer's Yabulu nickel refinery

By David Chen and John Taylor, Monday April 14, 2014 - 13:19 EST

Queensland Environment Minister Andrew Powell says he is concerned the tailings dam at billionaire Clive Palmer's Yabulu nickel refinery near Townsville is overflowing.

Inspectors will visit Queensland Nickel's Yabulu refinery today to determine whether there has been a spill of toxic waste because of rain from Cyclone Ita.

On social media, Mr Palmer accused Premier Campbell Newman of leaking misinformation to the media for political gain.

Mr Palmer also says today the State Government is targeting him and jeopardising the north Queensland economy.

"Our refinery was hit by the cyclone and we got 1,000 men and women at Townsville that are helping work out those sort of things," he said.

"I'm sure there's been damage done and things like that.

"The Environmental Department of course has not yet made any measurements of any of the water either.

"Our people are analysing it at the moment and it doesn't look like it's any thing at all."

However, Mr Powell says his concerns about the refinery are real.

"I think it's in the best interests of the people of Townsville, particularly those who are employed through Queensland Nickel, that they're aware of the situation," he said.

"As I said, it would be unacceptable for environmental harm to be caused - we've said that all along.

"I take my job as a regulator very seriously and we'll continue to do so regardless of any tweeting from Mr Palmer."

Mr Powell says the company has been given plenty of warning to increase the capacity of its tailings dam.

"All along we've been explaining to Mr Palmer that he can't bank on sunny days for the rest of his operations at Queensland Nickel - that he did need to prepare for a wet season such as the one that we've just had," he said.

"You can't on average wet seasons each and every year, there will be season where you higher than average rainfall and that's what's occurred."


© ABC 2014

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