Laws of the land
DESPITE the intentions of the Queensland Government to issue legislation on the Strategic Cropping Land Policy early this year, the coal exploration company, Bandanna Energy, is “marching merrily on” with its plans for two major Bowen Basin coal projects.
Last week, Bandanna announced it was commencing the Environmental Impact Statement process on both projects having received the draft Terms of Reference from the Department of Environment and Resource Management.
The news has come as a big blow to Arcturus Downs and Springsure Creek property owners who expected some protection of their land under the strategic cropping policy.
“We were told by the Premier herself that absolutely nothing would be done to prime cropping land until the strategic cropping policy had been sorted out, and Bandanna is charging ahead merrily regardless. The proposed Arcturus Coal Mine project is smack-bang in the middle of prime cropping land,” said property owner and Golden Triangle member Mike Wagner, whose property falls within the Springsure Creek mine lease.
“It has already impacted on two of our properties. We are getting ready to retire and want to keep on the organic block and sell on the two other properties but you simply can’t sell them with a mine lease. It’s the first question buyers ask and if the land is under a mining lease they move on elsewhere.”
As a grower of A-grade organic grain, Mr Wagner slammed mine companies’ claims they could rehabilitate land once mined.
“Aesthetically the land will be ruined, and its quality will be irreparably destroyed,” said Mr Wagner.
“You simply can’t rehabilitate prime growing land back to its original quality. These companies can argue until they are blue in the face that you can but it’s impossible.
“Once you go through the humus level - the topsoil- the land is ruined.
“The long walls also cause subsidence which wrecks the contours of your farm and destroys the water flow. Once they take the coal, the land simply collapses right up to the surface and your perfectly contoured paddock caves in.”
With the uncertainty of two major mine projects looming over the land, Mr Wagner said he was no longer able to make plans for the future.
“Gone are the days when they paid you big bucks to move on. Now it’s just market value. The CSG and mining companies are all the same. It’s all about making lots of money now, they don’t take into account the future,” he said.
Mr Wagner said he would be making a submission outlining his concerns.
“We have been screaming loud and clear for a long time. You don’t get any more prime than our land. I am not against mining. There are areas in Australia that can be mined but not prime agricultural land.”
Springsure Creek property owner and Golden Triangle member Kate Sullivan said she had not expected to receive the TOR so soon.
“When Bandanna representatives visited us three months ago they were saying things like ‘Don’t worry, your kids will grow up here’, so to get this paperwork through so soon is unexpected and seems at odds with what they said.”
Members of the Golden Triangle met with LegalAid solicitor Glenn Martin in Orion for five hours on Wednesday to discuss the TOR and EIS.
“We are actually looking forward to this process,” said Mrs Sullivan. “During exploration drilling we really don’t have much of a say, so this is the first time as a community we have a voice and a chance to raise our concerns.
“We have all read though the TOR and there are specific things that we are concerned about and will be raising in our own individual submissions to DERM.”
Mrs Sullivan said there was “a real rumble of frustration through the agricultural community” at the absence of any Strategic Cropping Land Policy, despite promises legislation would be passed early this year.