THE cotton industry has hit out at the exemptions available to miners and coal seam gas companies in the State Government's new Strategic Cropping Land Bill.
Cotton Australia's Queensland policy manager Michael Murray said the new legislation was "too narrowly focused, with too many exemptions and transitional arrangements, for it to have any real impact or offer any significant protection for high-value agricultural land".
"The government has the right general idea but this legislation won't save our prime farmland unless the scope is widened to consider the impact on water resources from coal seam gas developments, along with the adverse potential from underground mine subsidence," he said.
"Coal companies can simply sidestep strategic cropping land by changing from an open cut to an underground extraction process."
But Minister for Natural Resources Rachel Nolan hit back at Mr Murray's claims.
Ms Nolan said: "It would be negligent of government to undertake a policy shift of this magnitude without transitional arrangements to mitigate the impacts on agriculture, urban development and the resource sector; these arrangements were essential to manage sovereign risk.
"It is simply not true that coal companies can simply sidestep SCL by changing to an underground extraction process."
However, at least one coal company has managed to continue with its approvals process despite the introduction of the Bill.
"Bandanna Energy have been granted a specific exemption from SCL for their Springsure Creek project and another company is proposing to mine under the Emerald Irrigation Area," Mr Murray said.
"Mining companies are never going to give up on chasing the resource under high-quality agricultural land. They will simply modify their operations so they fit within the very narrow focus of SCL," he said.
He said the criteria for SCL protection from CSG developments were focused on soils and did not give any consideration to the possible impacts of CSG production on the state's water resources, which played a critical role in its food and fibre production.
"CSG extraction poses a significant risk to our water resource and yet SCL will do nothing to stop CSG extraction on some of the state's best farming land, that also overlays highly productive water resources such as the Condamine Alluvium," Mr Murray said.
Ms Nolan said: "The restrictions apply to open cut mining, coal seam gas, underground coal gasification, long-wall or underground mining and urban and industrial development.
"This legislation puts in place substantial limitations in areas that previously provided free range to developments, which would permanently alienate very good quality cropping land," Ms Nolan said.
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