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Issue #1615      October 23, 2013

Qld gov’t set to wind back protections against mining

Mining conflicts are likely to escalate in Queensland if state and federal governments push ahead with plans to remove the rights and protections of communities, water resources, bushland and farmland under the guise of “cutting green and red tape.”

President of community group Lock the Gate Alliance, Drew Hutton, warns that there are processes underway to hasten coal and gas developments, and promised protections are being wound back by the Newman and Abbott governments.

The most worrying of these moves has come from the Queensland government which has foreshadowed changes to the Mineral Resources Act to prevent anyone but affected landholders from objecting to Mining Lease applications.

“At present this would apply to small mines but there is nothing more certain than if the Newman government gets away with this, it will apply these provisions to all mines, ensuring only affected landowners and not the community in general can object”, Hutton said.

“What we’re seeing is an unseemly haste to push the community out of the way and give coal companies free rein to ride over local people and the things they value, like clean air, productive farmland and the bush.”

This is not the only move from state and federal governments that is concerning Lock the Gate.

Firstly, an estimated 65 new coal mines and gas projects are seeking approval from the Queensland government, 30 of which should require additional assessment under the new federal water trigger.

Secondly, plans are in development for the Darling Downs and Central Queensland in an effort to “streamline” resource developments.

Thirdly, the Strategic Cropping Land Act, which was supposed to protect cropping land from coal development is under review just 18 months after it came into force.

Finally, the federal government has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with Queensland to hand federal approval powers to the state. 

“Freezing the community out of all decision making on high-impact developments like mining will simply increase the popular resistance to them.”

Meanwhile, the Lock the Gate Alliance has warned the federal government against back flipping on its commitment to undertake a water assessment of Clive Palmer’s China First mine.

The China First project would be one of the first projects to be assessed under the “water trigger”, which gives the federal government responsibility to ensure the protection of water resources from large coal mines and CSG projects.

Lock the Gate Alliance spokes person for Central Queensland, Ellie Smith, said they had welcomed the application of the water trigger to this project and would strongly condemn a change to that listing.

“It is no wonder that [Clive Parlmer’s] Waratah are trying to avoid having the water trigger applied to them: they must be worried the federal government might actually say no to the mine, given the intense and long-lasting impacts this mine will have on groundwater.” said Smith.

“The commonwealth EIS states that the two open cut pits and four underground mines that would make up this huge ‘mega’ mine complex are predicted to extract an average of 25.7 billion litres of water from local aquifers every year for 35 years.”

Local graziers will see water levels in their bores drop at least a metre according to the commonwealth EIS, but the Waratah coal document also admits that the full predicted impact has not yet been assessed.

“It is clear from a number of assessments that have been conducted in the region that modelling and predictions of groundwater impacts need far more information in order to be useful,” Smith pointed out.

The Independent Expert Scientific Committee has recommended time and again that a regional assessment be undertaken.

“This mine is a test of the new government’s commitment to protecting water resources from large-scale coal mining. Landholders around the country will be watching to make sure the minister orders a cumulative impacts of mining on water resources in the Galilee Basin and to see whether he has the backbone to say ‘no’ to projects that will have unacceptable impacts on water resources

“If Clive Palmer thinks that his new position of power in the Australian parliament sets his projects above the law, he should think again.”

Next article – Schools forced to do more with less

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