Operators were told safeguards were needed but allowed contaminants to spread, a court has been told.
Operators were told safeguards were needed but allowed contaminants to spread, a court has been told.

Linc Energy's toxic disaster blamed on mining bosses

THEY knew there was a problem, but Linc Energy just "kept going" with devastating coal gasification activity.

That is what a prosecutor has claimed as Linc faces five counts of causing serious environmental damage in Chinchilla.
The energy company, in liquidation, is not in Brisbane District Court to defend the charges.

Jurors on Tuesday heard allegations of Linc's reckless disregard for the environment.

Prosecutor Ralph Devlin alleged Linc had injected air underground "in a way that created and enhanced fractures in surrounding" land.

He said Linc used its underground wells in a way that made them fail.

"Those well failures created underground pathways" for toxins to escape far way, to places Linc could not remove contaminants, Mr Devlin said.

He said Linc's activities also led to benzene and carbon monoxide being released into surrounding land.

Mr Devlin said "water-soluble toxic chemicals" were dispersed underground.

The charges related to allegations from four gasifiers at various stages from mid-2007 to late 2013.

The first two charges related to alleged activity at Gasifier 2, or G2.

"The land could no longer contain the gases created when Gasifier 2 was lit," Mr Devlin said.

Here, Mr Devlin said Linc caused unauthorised harm through "fracking of the overburden by excessive pressures".

He said fracking was a term used in relation to coal seam gas, but this was an underground coal seam gasification "beast of a different colour".

"The coal…is ignited underground and that has the effect of creating man-made gases underground."

The other charges related to alleged damage caused in relation to G3, G4 and G5.

At the fourth gasifier, Mr Devlin said Linc proposed a system of guard wells which would artificially raise pressure underground.

But "those measure were shown not to be working," the prosecutor said.

Mr Devlin said Linc knew of risks, concerns and problems but in some cases failed to do enough to address concerns.

He said some senior former Linc executives raised concerns, but at other times failed to act.

He alleged former CEO Peter Bond knew Linc was operating unsafely at times but failed to "correct or cease operations".

Mr Devlin claimed Mr Bond "prioritised Linc's commercial interests" over environmental safety.

He said former general manager Donald Schofield "to his credit" reported back to Mr Bond about significant operational failures happening around 2007-2009.

Mr Devlin said another executive, Stephen Dumble, knew during G3's operation that contamination was spreading.

He alleged Mr Dumble failed to "stop the spread" even though he elevated the problems to the Linc board.

Linc's liquidators asked not to defend the charges, and the Supreme Court agreed.

"It's taken me forty years to end up without an opponent at the other end of the table," Mr Devlin said.

The trial before Judge Michael Shanahan continues.