Most polluted postcode in Australia identified by Conservation Foundation

Mines in the outback city of Mount Isa are responsible for 91% of emissions and mean the area ranks worst for air pollution in Australia, despite claims of a benchmark-setting air quality management system.

If you’re not from Down Under, the settlement of Mount Isa is unlikely to be familiar. Now the small city in Queensland has a rather unfortunate claim to fame, with the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) naming it as the nation’s worst for air pollution levels. 

While home to just 18,500 people, the area is a major industrial centre for the north-western Gulf Country region, with the town first established as a result of huge mineral deposits found in the land. The Glencore-operated Mount Isa Mines are recognised as some of the most productive in human history, with lead, silver, copper, and zinc all being produced. 

However, the widespread presence of five pollutants of concern – sulfur dioxide, mercury, coarse and fine particles and nitrogen oxides – have now led to the town ranking as the most polluted postcode in the country. It is believed that 91% of all emissions come from the mines themselves, which a 2020-21 report showed emitted 400,000 tonnes of sulfur dioxide, 3,800 tonnes of nitrogen oxides, and 860kg of mercury compounds. 

Despite the high levels of air pollution, the Mount Isa Mines have what is said to be Australia’s most comprehensive and intense air quality monitoring network. Meanwhile, the city’s copper smelter has an acid plant which captures all fumes from the stack, and these emissions are converted into fertiliser. Nevertheless, the findings have renewed calls for a coherent national plan for the transition to clean energy and consistent air quality standards. 

In related news, an EU court as ruled that Italy’s nitrogen dioxide levels breach air pollution law. 

Image credit: Tennis Expert


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2 years ago

Poor people who live and work there. Have there been any studies on the health of their children?

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