GREEN SHOOTS: Queensland Alumina Limited general manager Mike Dunstan.
GREEN SHOOTS: Queensland Alumina Limited general manager Mike Dunstan. Matt Taylor GLA280219QALGM

Jobs boost: QAL reveals $260m five-year environment plan

SMELLING and hearing the industrial process at Queensland Alumina Limited from nearby suburbs is hoped to become a thing of the past.

Odour and noise are two of seven focuses in the company's new five-year Environmental Improvement Program, announced by general manager Mike Dunstan today.

The $260million initiative will include more than 55 projects and upgrades that have been identified to address air quality, seawater and stormwater management, odour, noise and culture.

The upgrades are estimated to create $100million worth of employment opportunities and local spend. 

This includes jobs for civil workers, engineers, boilermakers and fitters.

"These key works will improve our current environmental performance and set us up for the future," Mr Dunstan said.

"This is a long-term strategic initiative and a vote of confidence in QAL's future by our owners.

"If we don't do this we won't be here in five years time."


Stock photo of Queensland Alumina Limited (QAL), Gladstone.
CLEAN-UP ACT: Mr Dunstan said without the upgrades QAL would be in breach of its environmental assessment in five years. Matt Taylor GLA280219QAL

The Rio Tinto and Rusal owned site is working closely with the Department of Environment and Science, with the department due to review the plans next week.

Mr Dunstan said without the upgrades the company would be in breach of its environmental assessment in five years.

The company will spend up to $80million as part of the program this year but Mr Dunstan said most of the delivery would be in 2020.

Asked if the smell from QAL would be noticeable from Toolooa St in five years, Mr Dunstan said: "I certainly hope not."

"(Odour) is a difficult problem because (bauxite) is a natural product ... our object is to track down all of those sources of odour and eliminated it over time," he said.

"I can stand here and talk about dollars of investment but until we reduce our odour in the community for example, until there is tangible results, the jury is still out.

"We understand that and we are focusing on the outcomes."

The announcement comes as the company faces several charges and a potential $815,937 fine for two separate chemical spills in 2017.

Mr Dunstan said part of this project was in response to those accidents.

"We deeply regret the impact we've had on the community in those events," he said.

"(In this program) we considered how can we make this better and how can we prevent this from happening again.

"That's been taken into account but it's more than that, this is really looking forward to what we have to do to keep this place going in 20-30 years time."

Mr Dunstan said the project was also important to show the community it took environmental management seriously.

Gladstone Industry Leadership Group's 2017 study of residents' thoughts on local industry showed of 750 people 42 per cent believed big industry cared about the environment.

Mr Dustan said he hoped the initiatives would improve that perception.

The projects are part of a commitment made in 2018 for a year-on-year environmental performance.


Stormwater management: Improve collection, treatment and re-use options to ensure any release of stomrwater from non-process related areas is complaint. All core refinery process areas will be directed to a containments pond for recycling.

Seawater management: Red mud is the by-product of alumina refining and is mixed with seawater to neutralise any cuastic soda before being pumped into QAL's Residue Disposal Area at Boyne Island. The seawater is then decanted out of the red mud and released back into South Trees Inlet. Over time increased silt build up in South Trees Inlet has started to decrease water flow around the discharge area. QAL is exploring options to relocate the discharge point in the long term.

Air quality: $38 million investment over five years to address airborne dust, alkali emissions and plant odour. Upgrades potential for the storage, transfer and loading of bauxite, alumina and coal, as well as dust reduction.

Land and water: $175m investment over five years which includes a redesigned cuastic storage area and technology improvements.

Odour: A new odour study will be completed to create an updated baseline of the highest concentrations of odour to help establish what upgrades need to be done.

Noise: $400,000 investment over five years to reveiw plant processes and equipment and make changes where possible.

Culture: A new safety management system will be implemented to identify critical controls for major hazards, which have the potential to cause environmental issues.