MAC: Mines and Communities

Australian farmers face a "future sold off for ever"

Published by MAC on 2012-01-31
Source: Climate Spectator, Queensland Times, Mining.com (2012-01-23)

The Australian state of Queensland last year introduced legislation to ban mining that would degrade agricultural resources. 

But this hasn't stopped further projects being proposed - including a coal mine which   allegedly threatens a renowned tourist site and a koala corridor.

Farmers from New South Wales (NSW) have also been up in arms against exploitation of fossil fuels found on their lands. See: Australians ignite around Coal and Food

Last week, the executive director of the Beyond Zero Emissions group pointed out that many NSW farmers have seen "what's happening up north".

And, says Mathew Wright: "[They're] getting organised, locking their gates and preparing themselves for the coming energy wars that will be waged across rural communities, until the threat of the coal and gas expansion is eliminated.

"It's time to...starve out the greedy gas and coal miners and any government that chooses to put mines before mouths...

"A future of food farms, wind and solar is a bright future, whereas a future of coal and gas exploitation is a future sold off forever."

Losing farmland to fossil fuels

By Matthew Wright

Climate Spectator

23 January 2012

Today, across NSW, farmers are participating in wind projects by co-locating wind turbines on their land. Just 2,000 modern 7.5MW on-shore wind turbines would provide enough electricity to power more than half of NSW.

The NSW government is opposed to wind and the development benefits that accompany it, including financial benefits of $8,000 per wind turbine. This money flows to farmers who are choosing to diversify and play a part in the 21st century move to a renewable powered economy.

The NSW Liberal party policy, now law, sets up a buffer zone of 2km around any house in the state for the siting of wind turbines. Our farmers, many of whom are doing it tough, are being deprived by this ill-thought-out decision to effectively ban wind turbines from the entire state.

Wind developers are now looking elsewhere, funders in trail.

You would think that with laws like this, where anyone can veto any wind turbine anywhere, that property rights and the country way of life are being protected. Well, think again.

Farmers own just the top few metres of their land, and everything under that is up for grabs, thanks to the NSW government policy of trying to sell as many gas and coal exploration and extraction licenses as they possibly can, property rights are likely to be a thing of the past.

Unlike with wind power, where anyone can say no to your wind turbine - even though you wanted it, and the financial rewards that go with the business opportunity - a coal or gas company can slap a court order on you and force their way onto your land after just 28 days.

You have no right to stop them. One day you could be growing wheat, corn or running your sheep, and the next you've got a great big cyclone fence topped with barbed wire on your land.

Inside the fence surrounding a coal seam gas mine is a well-head pump, settling ponds and flaring pits, drums of oil, and tonnes of unknown chemicals. Connecting it to the next coal seam gas site - which, unluckily for you, is probably also on your land - is a pipeline.

When the drilling rig is in, it is injecting the unknown chemicals underground to create the openings that allow the gas to flow.

They're pumping water from what are often very saline and toxic aquifers and hoping to evaporate that off in the middle of the year's harvest. In many instances, with the drilling come mini earthquakes and contaminated aquifers - a disaster if you're planning to irrigate your crop or water your stock.

The damage from coal and gas mining can take a very long time to be reversed, whereas all wind turbines can be upgraded or completely removed, sites 100 per cent rehabilitated at the end of their 30 year lifespan.

In the Hunter [Valley] , Ian Moore, a blind farmer from Jerry's plains, was issued with a court order from the Land and Environment court by Coal Miner NuCoal. Only a brigade of farmers and a huge public outcry which played through the media was able to stop this money hungry company from ruining Ian's only way he knows of earning a living - farming.

Coal seam gas in NSW is no different to Queensland, where a stacked planning and permit process railroads unsuspecting farmers into signing away their land.

Miners have guaranteed access under the Petroleum and Gas Act. The Act guarantees the miners access to farmers' land within 50 days, and if a farmer refuses to let them onto his land he can be fined $50,000 under the notorious s.805 for obstructing access.

In this way the livelihoods of our farmers and their aspirations for the futures of their loved ones are being destroyed by mining companies and a complicit government using the courts and police to force them to sign away their family farms under duress.

Many NSW farmers are seeing what's happening up north and today are getting organised, locking their gates and preparing themselves for the coming energy wars that will be waged across rural communities, until the threat of the coal and gas expansion is eliminated.

We are no longer seeing a fair go for farmers. Instead, the government is favouring the prospect of a windfall for big miners, who would rather see Australia as a low-cost producer of a basic commodity, competing with the poorest of developing countries.

While many farmers would rather partake in a modern 21st century, renewable-powered Australia, with the latest efficient transport systems and a high-tech smart farming sector that will keep us resilient to future energy and resource scarcity.

If we want to feed ourselves in the future, it is time to put a stop to this.

It's time to pull together and starve out the greedy gas and coal miners and any government that chooses to put mines before mouths, letting them know that they will be very lucky if they make it to the next election.

A future of food farms, wind and solar is a bright future, whereas a future of coal and gas exploitation is a future sold off forever.

Matthew Wright is executive director of Beyond Zero Emissions

The Zero Carbon Australia Stationary Energy Plan was released in 2010 and will be significantly updated in 2012. In the meantime we'll be releasing the ZCA Buildings and Transport plans.


Millionaire takes on mining sector

By Peter Foley

Queensland Times

21 December 2011

THE anti-mining lobby in Ipswich has received a massive boost with high profile multi-millionaire Graham "Skroo" Turner joining the fray.

Mr Turner, tourism executive, Flight Centre managing director and one of Australia's richest people with a fortune listed at about $365 million, is heading the campaign against coal projects.

He stands to be personally affected, with his Spicers Hidden Vale resort at Grandchester in the mining firing line.

But he said hundreds more landholders, businesses and conservationists feared the impact of proposed coal mine projects in the region between Ipswich and Toowoomba.

As reported in the QT, OGL Resources Limited plans to reopen the 675 hectare Ebenezer coal mine near Rosewood next year.

The company has obtained a Mineral Development License to mine a further 9202ha of privately-owned land, known as the Bremer View Coal Project, in a move which opponents believe will devastate the region and the local koala population.

"The impact of an open-cut coal mine reopening so close to the town and the licensed new mine will be devastating for the local community and will see an immensely negative environmental impact," Mr Turner said in a statement.

"The State Government is requesting urgent action to protect south-east Queensland's koalas in an effort to halt their decline, but the government has gone and renewed the mining license at the Ebenezer Coal Mine, which is located in the heart of a well-known koala corridor."

He said business owners and residents feared more than 200 properties would be directly affected by the proposed mine - which would be eight kilometres east of Rosewood - and another 200 indirectly affected.

Mr Turner, who owns Spicers Hidden Vale, said the Queensland Tourism award-winning boutique hotel on a 4860ha working country farm would be directly impacted if OGL decided to move forward with the Bremer View Coal Project.

"The government and mining companies need to understand that their actions will be detrimental for the environment, the local community and south-east Queensland's country tourism," he said.

"This is people's livelihoods that we are talking about. An open-cut coal mine will devastate the lives of hundreds, possibly thousands of people due to the mine's close location to the town and the environment will never recover from a project of this magnitude."

Mr Turner, who launched Flight Centre in 1981, said if the community didn't stand up and take action against the mining companies the beautiful region between Ipswich and Toowoomba would be devastated.

Mr Turner said the mining industry was also misleading the public about its contribution to the economy.

"The fact is the mining industry only employs 1.9 per cent of the population and only accounts for around 9.2% of gross domestic product, which is around the same level of contribution as the manufacturing and finance industries," he said.


Queensland to protect farmland from mining

By Andrew Topf

Mining.com

26 October 2011

Legislation introduced in the Queensland state parliament could have a negative impact on mining.

The bill, the first of its kind to be introduced in Australia, bans mines that would make land unusable for farming, the Courier-Mail reported Wednesday:

"The resources sector is growing in Queensland, but our government's commitment is to sustainable growth supporting mining in the right places, while ensuring best agriculture land is protected for future generations," (Environment Minister Rachel) Nolan said in a statement.

Under the new law, farmland would be assessed under eight scientific criteria to show if the land is good for cropping, and therefore qualifies for protection. In protected areas, mining would only be allowed to proceed if the minerals could not be found in another part of the state or other exceptional circumstances reported the Courier-Mail.

The restrictions apply to open cut mining, coal seam gas, underground coal gasification, long-wall or underground mining, and urban and industrial development.

Meanwhile ABC Rural reported eight Queensland councils will opt out of a voluntary ban on mining exploration within two kilometres of their urban areas:

In August, the State Government froze exploration around towns with more than 1,000 people to address community concerns about mining.

Queensland is the world's largest exporter of seaborne coal with over 30 billion tonnes of identified resources, according to the Queensland goverment's website.

The state also hosts copper, lead, zinc, bauxite, phosphate rock, magnesite, and oil and gas basins.

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