There is no arguing that coal has an important role in Australia’s economy – past, present and future.
So has agriculture.
We are not trying to destroy the coal industry. We are merely fighting for the future of agriculture, an industry which has worked hard for and earned similar significance in Australia’s economy – and which is seriously threatened on the Liverpool Plains by proposed projects at Caroona and Watermark.
EL 6505 – The Caroona Coal Project
In April 2006, the NSW State Labor Government issued BHP Billiton, via its shelf company Coal Mines Australia Ltd, a five-year coal exploration licence EL 6505. BHP paid the government $100m for the licence with the promise of an additional significant contribution from BHP if approval to mine is granted. The exploration licence covers 344 square kilometres around Caroona in the Liverpool Plains region of NSW – recognised as one of Australia’s most productive food bowls, contributing $332m to annual GDP.
BHP Billiton plans to lodge their Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) in early to mid 2015. Although the company has promised not to long wall mine under the alluvial acquifer or the black soil plains, the proposed project still holds a number of significant concerns with regard to water and natural resources.
EL 7223 – The Watermark Project
In August 2008, the NSW Govt issued an exploration licence over neighbouring land at Watermark to the Chinese State owned miner Shenhua. The company paid the NSW Government $300m for the right to explore 195 square kilometres for coal with a promise of a further $375m if approval to mine is granted. Shenhua lodged their Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on October 29, 2012 and it was on public display from February 28 to April 26, 2013.
The NSW Government and mining companies say they believe there is an untapped coal reserve in excess of 500 million tonnes within the licence area which would support a 30-50 year mine.
Shenhua Watermark is seeking State Significant Development Consent under Division 4.1 of Part 4 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 for the development and operation of an open cut coal mine for a period of 30 years.
The are an area of world class agricultural production and value. The soils and climate are second to none and proximity to market gives the area a competitive advantage. The region is possibly the most drought resistant broad acre farming area in Australia, and when faced with food security issues in a time of global climate uncertainty, the area needs to be protected for its productive significance. The people of Australia should not be alienated from their ability to produce food.
The region is underpinned by vast coal and gas resources. The extraction of these resources poses a serious threat to the productive assets which reside above the ground via disturbance both underground and across the system.
- The black soil plains rely on the sloping country to deliver moisture and nutrients in wet times. Disruption of only the sloping country will not necessarily preserve the flat black country to its current capacity.
- Subsidence under flood plain country will certainly upset water flows and the balance of the water system.
- Once the infrastructure is in place for the development of one project, it is likely that the proponents will have an incentive to extract further resources from the area so any talk of the effects of mining must be considered in this context and the effects of the initial project cannot be downplayed.
Shenhua’s EIS states:
A final void will remain in the Western Mining Area and will cover an area of approx. 100 hectares. It will have a maximum depth of 80 metres below the natural ground surface…. The analysis found that partial backfilling of the void would incur a total additional cost of $42 Million, whilst complete backfilling would incur an additional cost of $438 Million… Therefore, in recognition of the further potential coal resources and the ability of the Western Mining Area void highwall to provide access to these resources, the cost / benefit analysis found that the retention of a safe and stable final void in the Western Mining Area was the most appropriate outcome.
Claims that this is a one off project which will not incur future interference with the natural and current environment are clearly misleading. Unfortunately we just cannot take the goodwill claims of these companies at face value, and consequently we are committed to ensuring the protection of the resources in our beautiful region from the outset.
We are being proactive about protecting our health and welfare from coal mining. We want to understand the affects this industry will have on us before they may occur. That is why community groups and organisations in the Gunnedah Basin are commissioning a Gunnedah Basin Health Impact Assessment (HIA).
There are clear indications from international health research literature that there are serious health and social harms associated with coal mining and coal‐fired power stations for people living in surrounding communities.