Tuesday, October 17, 2017
FROM a former Labor Party member who once voted for Whitlam, and not only lives to regret it but is standing at the next Queensland state election as a Greens candidate, to a young law student studying at Canberra University who grew-up on the land 55km the other side of Longreach and eventually wants to return to the land, there were multiple voices offering myriad opinions about mining, coal seam gas (CSG), deep gas and shale gas activities at a farm meeting in Emerald today (Tuesday) held under the auspices of Farmers for Climate Action.
Seventy people attended a similar meeting in Longreach on Monday.
The seriousness of the impact on groundwater supplies by the projected nine mines in central Queensland — and especially Adani’s Carmichael Mine — was spelt-out by Tom Crothers, former general manager of Water Planning and Allocation for Queensland, who attacked the special treatment being offered by successive Queensland governments to Adani on groundwater “that should have every farmer within coo-ee of the Galilee Basin very worried indeed.”
From the outset, Tom Crothers demonstrated a passion for landholders; his rehearsed, straight-talking, off-the-cuff approach was clear and concise.
He said blame cannot be apportioned to any single government: “It was initiated by the Bligh government; progressed by the Newman government; and endorsed by the current Palaszczuk government.”
After a 35-year career in the Queensland Public Service, Tom Crothers retired in 2011 to establish Stellar Advisory Services to provide water planning and management for primary production, mining, and petroleum and gas operations.
He is the author of “Draining the Lifeblood,” a critical observation of groundwater risks from the now approved Carmichael Mine.
The meeting drew a broad cross-section of interests — from those who wanted to ‘stop Adani’ no matter what, those wanting better management to water resources and those simply wanting better ways to do ‘so many things’; others were interested in water table issues, while another wanted to offer the youth perspective for the future of the region.
Greens candidates for Gregory and Nanango electorates joined those representing the Lock the Gate movement and Farmers for Climate Action.
Others were there simply to ‘listen and learn’, and one bloke reckoned he was there only for the post-forum barbecue.
A Victorian woman spoke of ways to influence elections and how her municipal council had declared ‘climate emergency action’, while another was there to support people who don’t want the Adani mine.
In effect, myriad interests were represented amongst the 30 attendees.
Other speakers included MC Mick Alexander (a Central Queensland grazier), Rick Humphries (a mine rehabilitation expert) and Michael Kane, a south-west Queensland farmer who recently joined Farmers for Climate Action as its Queensland co-ordinator.
Within his introduction to the Galilee Basin story, Tom Crothers detailed the impacts on groundwater from the nine proposed mines that included 34 mine pits and 11 underground mines; he spoke of how water usage would be equivalent to 0.66 Fairbairn Dams, freshwater usage, groundwater levels and decreasing supplies and the potential impacts on 500 bores — the lifeblood of local landholders.
“And there’s still a wide diversity of views on whether these mines will impact the great Artesian Basin.
He emphasised the fact there would be unlimited uptake of water: “34ml of water daily for 60 years,” he told.
“It will especially affect waterways like the Cooper which access the Great Artesian Basin.
“Without scientific certainty, any agreement is flawed,” he said.
Tom Crothers said that governments tend to favour the resources sector and penalise landholders.
He also criticised the manner by which two government departments manage water in Queensland.
He expressed the opinion that the Adani mine will not decimate the Great Artesian Basin (GAB), but leakage could siphon towards the rivers to the east.
Alternatively, shale and deep gas mining will affect the GAB.
And he predicted “the Carmichael mine will be the catalyst for more mines to proceed.”
His take-home message was that “both sides of the political fence are culpable for what has, and will happen to the surface and groundwater resources of the Galilee Bain, as well as the GAB.”
“What it comes down to is the changing levels of political influence: Agriculture versus the Queensland Resources Council and the Australian Petroleum Production Association (APPEA) versus the Media.”
Tom Crothers’ summation is three-pronged, depending on whether the Commonwealth and Queensland Governments’ dealings and approvals of the Galilee Basin mega coal mines are either:
- A jobs and economic growth miracle;
- A travesty of justice for landholders; or
- A long-term environmental legacy for future generations.
Mine rehabilitation expert, Rick Humphries, described himself as part-time with Lock the Gate and four days a farmer.
He said that 77 per cent of the population believe mine reinstatement will closely resemble what it originally was — and then went on to detail 3,300 abandoned mines that haven’t been rehabilitated in Queensland, mainly metal mines.
“We must work to stop mine abandonment,” he said.
“Adani will be four to five times that of the Clermont mine.
“Adani is predicted to leave behind 17 waste dumps.
“Additionally, at least 88km of watercourses will be diverted for the mine — with no attempts to restore them afterwards.”
He discussed land classifications: A is highly suitable, B is virtually useless; once mining begins, Carmichael will be classified as C (land not suitable for agriculture), and when mining is complete, the land will be reduced to D (land highly unsuitable).
Speaking on behalf of youth and the future of Australia, third-year law student Sara Graham, whose parents own a cattle property 55km from Longreach, spoke of her love of the freedom of living on the land.
“The region needs water,” she emphasised, while discussing the process of precipitation and the unending droughts.
Sara says that after completing her degree at Canberra University, she intends to return to her rural roots — to help people on the land and help others (those living in the city) understand the issues confronting those living on the land.
Having recently joined Farmers for Climate Action, Michael Kane said he especially wanted to hear contrary views — to be able to continue the debate.
“The attendances at Longreach and here in Emerald are bigger than expected,” he said.
Jericho grazier Bruce Currie, who has had two battles with government in the Land Court over mining issues, briefly spoke at the end of the forum about the challenges involved in seeking answers.
With costs of legal representation in the Courts prohibitive, he represents himself.
“I’m learning to be a bush lawyer,” he says; “I’m not there yet — I’ve lost on a couple of points.
“But I want to get it out there that I am passionate about my industry,” he said afterwards.
“We want best practice when dealing with the mining companies.”
Tom Crothers concluded the meeting with a pertinent comment: “Agriculture is expanding, resources is contracting.”
Those present want honest answers from governments — and to know that they are indeed listening to the people in the long-term interest of the nation.