Response to Advocate May 2008
LETTER TO THE EDITOR, QUIRINDI ADVOCATE
Let’s stop beating about the bush. The development of a coalmine and all its associated infrastructure by BHP Billiton is one of the biggest issues that this community will ever face. No-one can keep kidding themselves that “it’s just exploration”, or that BHP Billiton (BHP) is not clear about its future plans. In a recent letter to Caroona Coal Action Group (CCAG), Marcus Randolph, BHP Billiton Chief Executive Ferrous and Coal, confirmed this, referring to the development of “our Caroona coal mine”.
With such an important issue, the need for open, honest and informed debate is paramount. Our local paper is a good forum to air such debates. I am disappointed, however, that the front page article of “The Quirindi Advocate” 14th May doesn’t get it right. We must ensure that we get the facts absolutely right.
The facts in this matter are:
1 CCAG did not have the opportunity to comment on the article prior to it going to print.
2 The landholders within EL6505 have never refused to negotiate access. They simply drafted their own access agreement for negotiation which held BHP to its own published standard of “zero harm”. It was BHP that refused to negotiate with the community and forced the landholders into the mining warden’s court.
3 The “independent” arbitrator appointed by the Department of Primary Industries did not attempt to mediate with the landholders or their appointed legal representatives prior to imposing either his interim or final determination. The mining “arbitration process” is characterized by breaches and failures of what most people would regard as proper legal process.
4 The landholders are currently seeking advice from Senior Legal Counsel as to any future directions. Any statements made by this paper about the landholders in the Advocate Article of the 14th May are pure hearsay, and should not have been included as statements of fact.
5 Robert Hunt, the Liverpool Plains Shire Council GM, originally treated the whole access procedure with such disdain that he signed the first Agreement for Access with BHP under delegated authority prior to informing the Councillors of his actions. His minuted recommendations to Council continuously recommended further signing of the BHP access agreement. It wasn’t until strenuous lobbying by CCAG and Shire Councillors that legal advice was even sought, and modifications then made. This document was kept hidden, and denied to the public and the ratepayers until Council was forced to provide it under Freedom of Information legislation.
CCAG have never been opposed to sustainable development. The determination of access for so-called “exploration” is, however, only the first of many steps to the development of a huge coal mine in this region. CCAG will continue to insist that the precautionary principle must apply. We cannot put our productive agricultural land, or our rich underground and surface water resources at risk. We must ensure the sustainability of this region for many generations to come.