Saturday, November 1, 2008

Friends of Felton occupy Anna Bligh's office


Friday 31st October

Time : 12.30pm

Location : Anna Bligh’s office, West End, Brisbane

Farmers occupy Qld Premier’s office to save Darling Downs from coal mining

The Friends of Felton group today sat on the floor in the Premier’s office to demand the Government introduce legislation to protect prime farmland from mining. The peaceful protest involved around 25 people.

Spokesman Rob McCreath said “The mining boom is out of control. Areas such as Felton, Jimbour, and Warra are the jewels in the crown of rural Queensland. The Premier must act now to protect our food bowl from destruction.”

The group set up a mock lunch table on the pavement outside the office, with a plate of coal for the Premier’s lunch, and a glass of polluted water.

The protesters shared their own picnic lunch with onlookers – a picnic made from fresh Darling Downs ingredients.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Lunch with Anna

Friends of Felton

Invite you to

Lunch with Anna

12.30pm Friday 31st October

Venue : Anna Bligh’s electorate office, 90 Vulture St, West End, Brisbane.

We’re having : A picnic made from finest Darling Downs ingredients.

She’s having : A plate of coal, washed down by polluted water.

Friends of Felton


There’s nothing like a coal lunch……….

Fresh compote of carbonated leachate a-la-Ambre.

Mine Course
Chargrilled anthracite, aged to perfection ( 400 million years), marinated in D.M.E. and topped with syngas sauce.

Unlikely – due to colic!

It’s alimentary dear Bligh, coal is unpalatable, indigestible, and a Bligh-t on the land. Felton food is forever!

Our Aim – For the Qld Government to legislate to protect prime agricultural land from myopic mining madness.


Friday, October 10, 2008

Film & Information Evenings well attended

Friends of Felton organised 2 very successful Film & Information Evenings in Pittsworth and Toowoomba on Wednesday and Thursday. 190 people attended, including several TRC councillors. The event was billed as "Coal Mining in our Backyard - How will it affect us? What can we do?"

The film "Rivers of Shame 2" was shown, which highlights the impact of mining on rivers, aquifers, and local communities. It was produced by the Rivers SOS Group in NSW.

Chair of Friends of Felton, Rob McCreath, gave a presentation to demonstrate the extent of the coal mining industry on the Darling Downs at present, and to show which areas are currently covered by Exploration Permits.

"Many people are blissfully unaware that virtually the entire Darling Downs is under threat from the mining industry. This land is amongst the very best in Australia, and we must act quickly to pressure the Qld Government to protect it from mining, before it is too late. The imminent construction of the "Missing Link" rail line from Wandoan to Banana will allow the export of coal from the Darling Downs through the port of Gladstone. A large number of companies are keen to develop mines in prime agricultural areas such as Felton, Cambooya, Jimbour, and Warra. Some of these areas, such as Hodgson Vale and Wyreema are virtually in the suburbs of Toowoomba."

On Friday Ambre Energy applied for a Mining Lease at Felton. They propose building a 12.8Mt/yr open cut mine, and a petrochemical plant to convert the coal to liquid fuel.

"The Felton Project would have a horrendous impact on the environment, affecting the entire Toowoomba Region and beyond. It would poison our water supplies, and emit toxic pollution into the air. If the Felton Project is allowed to go ahead, it will be virtually impossible to stop the others, because they will seem clean in comparison" said Mr McCreath.

Dr Pauline Roberts, from the Caroona Coal Action Group, Liverpool Plains, NSW, highlighted how toxic coal is to human and environmental health. She said -

"Elements such as arsenic, mercury, lead, cadmium, selenium, nickel, vanadium and copper are accumulated and concentrated within coal and associated strata.

Radioactive elements such as uranium, thorium and radium (the latter which decays to radon gas) are also accumulated and concentrated within coal strata. These are toxic in their own right and toxic via the radioactivity they emit.

Coal seams, even those considered ‘low sulphur’ contain significant amounts of sulphur and sulphides whose bio-toxicity increases when exposed to air or water.

The fine particulate nature of coal dust, and the toxic constituents therein are readily inhaled and lodge in the lungs as well as being ingested.

Coal strata also contain hydrocarbons and benzene-ring derivatives within their organic layers that are considered carcinogenic.

Any water that is found within coal strata will be saline in nature, contaminated with organic derivatives and toxic and heavy metals.

Children, with their increased needs for minerals are particularly at risk from heavy metal toxicity. Some of these metals, like lead, have half lives in the body of 20 years, which means that their effects will only be truly known over several decades."

Dr Roberts warned a large part of State Government mining royalties should be allocated to the Health budget to cope with the long-term impact of the present mining boom.

Acland farmer Sid Plant spoke of his family's experience of living next to the New Acland mine. He told the meeting of the constant noise from blasting and heavy machinery, saying he hadn't slept properly at night for the first 18 months. He described the dust cloud which had aggravated his wife's asthma, and contaminated their drinking water. They now drank filtered bore water, as they could no longer drink the water collected from their roof. He pointed out the favourable treatment mining companies get from the State Government. "New Hope are putting in a water pipeline to supply their proposed mine expansion, before the EIS process has been completed." He said.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Toowoomba Regional Council must protect good agricultural land.

MEDIA RELEASE 2nd October 2008

Friends of Felton

Toowoomba Regional Council must protect good agricultural land.

Friends of Felton welcomes today’s announcement from Dalby Regional Council that it is taking steps to map and identify areas of good agricultural land, in order to protect it from mining.

The Felton Valley is under threat from a proposal by Ambre Energy to build a 12.5 million t/yr open-cut coal mine and associated petrochemical plant to convert the coal into liquid fuel.

Spokesman Rob McCreath said-
“The coal mining industry is out of control. Left unchecked, it will destroy a huge area of prime farmland across the Darling Downs. Areas such as Felton are unique, and should be preserved to guarantee Australia’s food production for the future. We call on Mayor Peter Taylor and Toowoomba Regional Council to follow the example set by Dalby Regional Council, and protect our food bowl.”


Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Climate Emergency Rally

Friends of Felton took part in the Climate Emergency Rally at Parliament House in Brisbane on Sunday.

Spokesman Rob McCreath addressed the crowd, and pointed out the huge environmental impact of the proposed Felton coal-to-liquids project. "Ambre Energy's own figures show their petrochemical plant would produce 3 tonnes of CO2 for every tonne of fuel produced.The open-cut mine would release large amounts of methane to the atmosphere, with serious climatic consequences."He said that agriculture was under attack from coal mining on two fronts. "Large areas of prime farmland are directly threatened with destruction, whilst climate change accelerated by the burning of coal is causing more frequent and severe droughts."

Paul Benedek, rally organiser from the Climate Emergency Network, said "Emissions cannot be allowed to increase. A tripling of coal production-as is planned by the Queensland Government-is an utter insanity that must be stopped. We are rallying to demand a massive shift to renewable energy, to public transport, and to sustainability. It is ironic that we are seeing a global plan putting $800bn into bailing out merchant banks, and yet there is seemingly nothing to bail out the planet that we live and depend on."

To listen to Rob's speech, click on the link below-

Friday, September 19, 2008

Film & Information Evenings - 8 & 9 October


A Film & Information Evening

Hill Street, Pittsworth

10 Annand Street, Toowoomba

Guest Speakers include;
Pauline Roberts & John Polglase, Caroona Coal Action Group, Liverpool Plains, NSW.

Sid Plant, Farmer & Climatologist, Acland.

Film: Rivers of Shame 2 - produced by Rivers SOS -

Organised by Friends of Felton

All welcome!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Meeting with Andrew McNamara

A delegation from Friends of Felton met with Andrew McNamara, Minister for Sustainability, Climate Change and Innovation at Parliament House in Brisbane yesterday. The group was accompanied by Stuart Copeland, Member for Cunningham.

Discussion focused mainly on environmental and social matters. The Government recently announced that a Social Impact Statement must be prepared as well as an Environmental Impact Statement before a Mining Lease is granted.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Fair Go for Felton

MEDIA RELEASE 3rd September 2008

Friends of Felton

Fair Go for Felton

The Premier recently announced a ban on new shale oil developments in Queensland for environmental reasons. In state parliament last week, the Minister for Mines & Energy stated that no new entitlements would be granted until a 2 year review had been carried out.

Friends of Felton were informed by the Premier's dept on 27th August that the Felton project proposed by Ambre Energy was not affected by the ban.

Friends of Felton call for the Felton project to be included in the shale oil ban on the following grounds -

1. The coal-to-liquids process at Felton is very similar to the process planned for the Whitsundays.

2. Shale has been identified in the resource at Felton ( Ambre Energy IAS 15 Feb 2008, pp 10-11).

3. The Whitsundays project threatened the Barrier Reef, the Felton project threatens the Murray Darling Basin.

4. Both projects would emit huge amounts of CO2 - at Felton, Ambre Energy themselves say 3t CO2 per 1t fuel.

5. The technology involved in both projects is equally unproven.

The Premier was quoted as saying "The environment must come first". By including Felton in the shale oil ban, she will demonstrate her concern for the natural environment as well as the political environment.


Sunday, August 31, 2008

Photographic Exhibition a great success

A large crowd of around 100 people packed the Pepperina Gallery at Nobby on Sunday for the official opening of the Friends of Felton Photographic Exhibition.The photographs on display showcase the beauty of the Felton Valley. Curator Lorraine Seipel (pictured)was given lavish praise by the gathering for the high quality of the exhibition. A number of the works have been selected to hang in the Carnival of Flowers exhibition, including one by Lorraine Seipel which recently won first prize in the Megapix Sharing the Vision Acquisitive Photographic Art Competition. The official opening was performed by Stuart Copeland MP, member for Cunningham. Music was provided by local group "Sunrise Road". The group was buoyed by the strong support from the public, and more activities are in the pipeline.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Will Anna Bligh scrap the Felton coal-to-liquids project?

MEDIA RELEASE 24/08/2008

Friends of Felton

Will Anna Bligh scrap the Felton coal-to-liquids project?

Friends of Felton welcome the announcement that the Bligh Government has scrapped the proposed $14b shale oil mining project in the Whitsundays.

We also welcome the declaration that other big developments will be stopped if they threaten Queensland’s pristine environment, and that legislation will be passed to prohibit new shale oil mines anywhere in Queensland.

We call on the Premier to confirm that this ban will include Ambre Energy’s proposed development at Felton, 30 km SW of Toowoomba, on the Darling Downs. This proposal includes a 12 million t/year open-cut coal mine, and a petrochemical plant to convert the coal into liquid fuel.

This project would devastate one of this country’s most beautiful & fertile valleys, contaminate underground aquifers, pollute the Murray Darling river system, destroy nationally significant populations of rare & endangered species, and produce huge quantities of Greenhouse gases.

Ms Bligh was quoted as saying “Our environment must come first”.

Will the Felton environment come first too?


Anna Bligh scraps Whitsunday shale oil proposal

Anna Bligh scraps Whitsunday shale oil proposal

Article from: Sunday Mail

Darrell Giles
August 24, 2008 12:00am

IN A victory for conservationists, the Bligh Government has scrapped a proposed $14b shale oil mining operation in the Whitsundays.

The Government also signalled that other big developments will be canned if they threaten Queensland's pristine environment. Premier Anna Bligh will today announce a 20-year moratorium on all mining activities and exploration over the McFarlane deposit, 15km south of Proserpine.

Conservationists feared the project would harm the Great Barrier Reef and local tourism, and the health of people who lived and farmed nearby.

But Queensland Energy Resources, the company investigating a plan to mine up to 1.6 million barrels of oil from the deposit, said it would have created 3000 permanent jobs, 3000 more in the construction phase, and produced oil for Australia for the next 40 years.

Ms Bligh said she would not allow the environment to be put at risk while the technology for extraction of the controversial resource was still not proven.
"Our environment must come first," Ms Bligh told The Sunday Mail yesterday.

The announcement will immediately stop plans to dig up about 400,000 tonnes of rock for resource testing of the deposit.
Ms Bligh said only one lease to mine oil shale existed, in Gladstone, and legislation would be passed so no new shale oil mines were permitted anywhere in Queensland.
"The Government will devote the next two years to researching whether oil shale deposits can be used in an environmentally acceptable way," Ms Bligh said.

Oil shale is sedimentary rock which is mined using open-cut technology. It contains kerogen, a bituminous material which is released when heated to extremely high temperatures of about 350C.
Further stages of processing produce something similar to crude oil, which can be refined to diesel.

More than 92 per cent of Australia's oil shale deposits are in Queensland – between Bundaberg and Proserpine – and QER owns the mining rights to two-thirds of it, worth about 15.8 billion barrels.

Mines and Energy Minister Geoff Wilson said small-scale demonstration plants using shale oil from the Stuart resource at Gladstone would still be allowed, but only if companies got a licence and their technology passed strict environmental standards.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Photographic Exhibition Invitation

The Friends of Felton Photographic Exhibition will be officially opened by Stuart Copeland MP on Sunday 31st August, at the Pepperina Gallery, Nobby, 30km South of Toowoomba.

This high quality exhibition has been produced by Lorraine Seipel, and comprises photographs taken by members of Friends of Felton of the Felton Valley and surrounding areas, currently under threat from Ambre Energy's proposed coal mine & petrochemical plant. One of these images, a photograph of Hodgson Creek taken by Lorraine, was recently judged the winner of the Megapix-Sharing the Vision Aquisitive Photographic Art Prize 2008. Six others were selected for the forthcoming Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers Photographic Exhibition 2008.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Getting the message out

A hard frost at Felton yesterday morning didn't put off a large group of volunteers who turned out to decorate more grain bins with campaign slogans.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Young people concerned about their community

Friends of Felton Chair, Rob McCreath, was invited to give a talk to 90 Grade 9 students at Pittsworth State High School on Monday. The students are studying sustainability, and wanted to hear our concerns about the mine, petrochemical plant, and power station planned for Felton. They were a very enthusiastic audience, and very interested to discuss what effect the development might have on their town, their lifestyle, and their community.

Today's Pittsworth Sentinel printed the following letters from 2 students -

I am a student at Pittsworth State High School. We have recently had a guest speaker speaking to us and he was telling us about the Felton Mine. If the mine is out in Felton than it will eventually reach Pittsworth.
The Felton Mine will be very close to Pittsworth and will be very bad for us all. Some say it will be a good thing that the mine is put in but I don't think so. Yes the Felton Mine will give us 24 mil­lion tonnes of coal a year but it will also pollute the area and when the wind blows our way the bad polluted air will to, also the dust will be every­where.
We will get more traffic and trucks. Pittsworth is known as a quite country town and if we attract more people it will ruin it for everyone, most peo­ple in Pittsworth are happy with Pittsworth as it is.
In Felton there are families that have been living there for generations and if a mine goes there it will affect them all, they might even eventually lose some of the nice land they own. They will also hear loud explosive bangs all the time, and if children live here you can't help but think if they are going to be ok. If this mine was in Felton it would be one of the biggest mines in Queensland, it will be a great loss of agricultural land.
I am trying to stop this mine and I am hoping people will help. If you want to help stop this mine but need more information just go to
Yours Sincerely, Student 1

I am a student at Pittsworth State High School and we have recently had a guest speaker in to talk to us about the Felton Mine.
If the mine is put in it will eventually reach Pittsworth. Some say it will be good that it will reach us here because of business but it will bring trucks and dust as well. At full production the mine would take out 24 million tonnes of coal a year.
This would make it one of the biggest coal mines in Queensland. There will be a massive loss of prime agricultural land. There are families that have been living there for generations and hope to live there for many more but that dream will be shattered because of this mine.
I am trying to put a stop to this mine and if you want to help, visit the website and help us stop the mine from ruining lives.

Yours sincerely, Student 2

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Friends of Felton need your help!

Ambre Energy (Felton) Pty Ltd has lodged a planning application with Toowoomba Regional Council for a "Material Change of Use" over 589Ha, to establish site offices and storage areas.

I am writing to appeal to everyone to PLEASE write to Toowoomba Regional Council, to object to Ambre Energy's planning application. Friends of Felton's main argument is that although the application is for a couple of dongas, this is the first stage of Ambre's much bigger plans. They cannot be granted a Mining Lease until a thorough Environmental Impact Statement has been prepared ( and we'll have plenty to say about that), therefore this application should be rejected.

We know that many of the councillors are on our side, and some have spoken out strongly against Ambre's plans. However, they are all under a lot of pressure, not least from the Qld Govt, who have a huge debt and are keen for the project to succeed. We need to give the councillors as much encouragement as possible to reject this application.

Lets flood them with letters of objection!

Your letter doesn't need to be long, or typed (handwritten is fine). Just make sure you put your name & address on it, and sign it. It doesn't matter where you live, letters are valid from anywhere - as long as they get to Toowoomba Regional Council on or before Weds 6th August.

Feel free to forward this to anyone you think would help us. If you have neighbours or friends without email, please print this off for them.

Remember the Dalai Lama's remark - " If you think you are too small to make a difference, try spending the night with a mosquito".

The 2 next posts should help, sorry they're in reverse order.

Submission template

Your name and address


The Chief Executive Officer
Toowoomba Regional Council
PO Box 3021
Toowoomba Village Fair
Qld 4350

Dear Sir/Madam

MATERIAL CHANGE OF USE APPLICATION: Hayden Road, Felton (Lot 1 on RP197372)

We refer to the material change of use application made by Ambre Energy (Felton) Pty. Ltd. in respect to Lot 1 on Plan RP197372 (Hayden Rd, Felton East)

Ambre Energy (Felton) Pty. Ltd. proposes to establish a site office and additional storage yard to support ongoing drilling and core sampling activities prior to the commencement of formal mining activities both on the site and in the broader Felton area.

We are owners of . . . . . /resident in the area ……………………………. …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. (give a brief account of your interest in the application)

Our key concern about the proposed material change of use from ‘rural’ to ‘industrial – low impact and commercial use’ at this site is that this development application presupposes the granting by State Government of a mining lease over a number of properties within the Felton area. Granting of such a lease can only happen, by law, following the completion and acceptance of a comprehensive Environmental Impact Study. Approval of this current development application by Council should take into account the proposed project as a whole.

Our concerns about the project as a whole (and consequently, this development application as a first request for approval of the Ambre Energy coal mining and petro-chemical processing project) cover a number of areas (suggestions only; please make you own list of headings to cover the things you are most concerned about):

conflict with the strategic plan
conflict with the planning scheme
impact on agricultural enterprises
impact on the environment
impact on amenity, community character etc
impact on road safety
noise, dust etc

Use each of these points as headings for the next section, providing details of your concerns

Strategic plan

(your point 1)
(your point 2) etc

Planning Scheme

(your point 1)
(your point 2) etc

Impact on agriculture

(your point 1)
(your point 2) etc



For the above reasons, we oppose the proposed change of landuse as the first stage of a project which poses a significant threat to the Felton Valley community. We ask that Council refuse the application.

Yours faithfully


Help with making a submission to Toowoomba Regional Council

Extracts from Environmental Defenders Office (Qld) Inc. “Factsheet 7: Making submissions on development applications”.

A submission is a special type of letter written to an authority considering a development application; it sets out either (i) the submitter’s reasons for why a specific development application should be refused or made subject to conditions addressing the submitter’s concerns, or (ii) why the submitter believes an application should be approved.

A properly made submission should:
(1) be in writing
(2) be received during the submission period (in this case, by Wednesday 6th August)
(3) state the name and address of every person making the submission
(4) be signed by all making the submission
(5) state the grounds of the submission and the facts relied on to support those grounds, and
(6) be made to the assessment manager for the development application

Individual submissions are more effective than petitions or form letters.

Anyone can make a submission; you don’t need to be resident in the area.

Grounds for making submissions can include: impact of a development on amenity (e.g. dust, noise, light, odour, visual factors), community character, traffic, noise, air pollution, waste management, land contamination, need and economic factors, property values, ecological impacts, cultural impacts, social impacts.

Developments need to align with and further objectives set out in the local government planning scheme (under the Integrated Planning Act), and to comply with any codes (e.g. building codes, landscaping codes, character protection codes) relevant to the development.

Council’s decision regarding an impact assessable development must advance ecological sustsainability

If you make a submission, you will be notified of the assessment manager’s decision on the development application.

There is no cost involved in making a submission.

Before making a submission, it is suggested in the factsheet that you should view:

(i) the development application (TRC website, planning and building, pd on line, search application, 2008 / 3040)

(ii) the local government planning documents (these are available at cost from the Pittsworth Council Offices, either on CD for $20 or in report form for $50 )
(iii) any relevant codes

(iv) any relevant planning, ecological, cultural, traffic or other studies for the area.

Points to bear in mind:

facts must be provided to support the submission
use headings to group your points
suggest conditions which might be imposed on the development to address your concerns

The following is an example of how you might set out your submission. Please change any of the text to suit your own situation/opinion.

Please ensure that you either post or deliver you submission to ensure that it arrives before the close of business on Wednesday 6th August 2008, and please remember to sign it.

Where is Felton?

Felton is around 30km southwest of Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia. The site for the proposed development is on the western side of Hodgson Creek, approx 2.5km from Felton on the Pittsworth road. Click on the link below for a map -,151.659393&spn=0.518993,0.845947&z=10

Friends of Felton Report 22 July 2008

MP’s Ray Hopper from the Queensland parliament and Ian Macfarlane from the Federal parliament headlined the meeting held last week at Felton.

Ray Hopper MP

Ray used his experience with the Ackland Mine as an example of the growth in size of mining in the area, and stated that whilst not against mining per se, he is totally against the destruction of prime farming land. He is concerned that the proposed rail link to Gladstone will open up more prime land to mining, which should be preserved for feeding and clothing our nation. Ray highlighted similar issues that Friends of Felton face in the Liverpool Plains and the Hunter Valley. At the “Meeting of the Minds”, organized by Bruce Scott MP in Dalby, a map was shown where all the farming land on the Downs was potentially covered by exploration leases, which was of great concern to Ray.

Ian Macfarlane MP

Ian pointed out that this is mainly a State issue with little Federal jurisdiction, but that his base belief is in agriculture. He encouraged Friends of Felton supporters to lobby the new Liberal/National party in Queensland to commit to strengthen the laws protecting arable land, as part of their election platform. Ian suggested the proposed carbon tax may have some impact on mine development, and if the oil price were to drop below $100 per barrel, the “Coal to Liquids” process is likely to become unviable economically.

Projects for the sequestration of CO2 have not been successful to date, and the only working project in Norway is under suspicion for leakage of the gas. Physical sequestration has a long way to go.

Change of use application

Ambre Energy have applied for the above on a Felton property to base a site office for the mine. Anyone wishing to lodge a submission to the Toowoomba Regional Council has until 6 August to do so, and the application can be viewed under the planning and building section of the TRC website, code 2008/3040

Mobile Signs

A very successful working bee has resulted in 2 large mobile signs being displayed in the Felton area, and further publicity is being planned.

The slogan for this week is Clean Coal, Dirty Joke
The next meeting will be held at the Felton Hall on Tuesday 5th August.

Hugh Reardon-Smith
Secretary Friends of Felton
382 words

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Sign writing

We had a great turn out of volunteers at the weekend to paint slogans on old grain bins.

The idea was to keep the message simple, and concentrate on two key issues with Ambre Energy's plans for our valley - CO2 emissions and the loss of prime farmland.

These mobile billboards will add to the message from dozens of improvised signs which are springing up like mushrooms around the area.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Friends of Felton 8 July Report

Friends of Felton Report

Last week’s meeting concentrated on reports on Ambre Energy’s Pittsworth information meeting, and a meeting with Peter Kenny of AgForce.

Ambre’s Information Meeting

Ambre’s plans for the CO2 that will be produced at the proposed hybrid energy plant were frustratingly vague at the Pittsworth meeting, with a number of options apparently under consideration. It appears that piping it to Moonie is the most favoured, with a sleeve suggested as the answer to fixing the current leaks in the pipeline. What was uncomfortably clear was that the amount of CO2 expected to be produced has tripled, to 3 tonnes of CO2 for every 1 tonne of DME (dimethyl ether).

The location of the potential buffer zones around the mine and plant are still to be decided by Ambre, and the future supply of water is still uncertain. Although Ambre are no longer planning to wash the coal, they will still need to import water and appear to be considering using potential saline water from the Dalby gas fields, but are unclear about potential desalination.

Ambre expect to apply for a mining lease within 4 weeks, but are unsure when the revised IAS (initial advice statement) will be available. They then expect the EIS (environmental impact survey) to take 18 months. Friends of Felton will only have 20 days to lodge suggestions for terms of reference for the EIS once the lease application is lodged.

AgForce Meeting

Friends of Felton were invited to join concerned AgForce members meeting with Peter Kenny recently. The group were informed about AgForce’s activities concerning the farming versus mining issue, and how AgForce could assist in the future.


The recent 7.30 Report exposure was well received by the group, and further publicity was discussed. The photographic exhibition is expected to be on display in the Pittsworth Gallery from 21st July – well worth a visit to see how beautiful the Felton Valley is.

The logo for this week is Mining in Felton. Shame, Shame, Shame.

The next meeting will be held at the Felton Hall on Tuesday 22nd July at 7pm, where Ray Hopper, MP for Darling Downs, will address the group.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Focus on Hodgson Creek

Guests at last week’s Friends of Felton meeting were Dr Mark Silburn, a senior hydrologist and Dr Richard Cresswell, a hydroechemist, who talked about the work they have been doing around Hodgson Creek.

The Hodgson Creek catchment area is 566 square kms, has over 1400 private bores and 24 monitoring bores. The group heard that the discharge/recharges cycles change with the wet/dry periods, and that although groundwater levels do respond to rainfall events, the time taken can vary from weeks to 9 months depending on soil type.

Hodgson Creek is unusual in that it flows 90% of the time, more than expected in Queensland with evaporation levels. Work has been done to measure the age of the water entering the creek to identify the different sources.

The effect of a possible mine on discharge and flow rates was discussed, as well as the sodic and salinity issues of the Dalby coal seam water, which has been mentioned as possibly being used by Ambre Energy for their proposed hybrid energy plant.

In other matters, Friends of Felton representatives had a very productive meeting with the Mines Minister, Geoff Wilson, which was arranged by Stuart Copeland. The Minister listened to the group’s concerns and assured the group that when an Environmental Impact Statement needs to be collated for a mining application, the rules would be followed.

The stands by Friends of Felton at the two World Environment Day functions in Toowoomba were well received, and with brochures available at the AgForce site at Farmfest, the concerns of Friends of Felton are reaching a wider audience. Lorraine Seipel’s photographic display of the Felton Valley was very popular, and will be on general display soon.

A number of Friends of Felton members have been contacted by the ABC’s 7.30 Report to be part of a story filmed this week on the conflict between farming and mining.

This week’s slogan is : Farmers are great, It’s the mining we hate

The next meeting will be on Tuesday 24th June at 7pm at the Felton Hall : all welcome.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Recent Developments

Friends of Felton (FOF) chairman Rob McCreath has been in contact with Ambre Energy regarding their latest plans for the Felton mine and hybrid energy plant. It appears Ambre Energy have no set date for the release of their updated Initial Advice Statement (IAS). FOF are waiting to see the details of Ambre Energy’s revised plans for the hybrid energy plant so as to reassess the impact to the Felton Valley.

A delegation from FOF met with the Toowoomba Regional Council (TRC) in Millmerran to voice their concerns and ask for TRC support. The council appeared surprised at the planned scale of the mine and plant, with production to reach 24 million tonnes of coal a year, and FOF felt the council was very much in support of their view that it is time a line in the sand was drawn as regards mining in this area. The suggested line runs between Millmerran and Acland, and FOF asked that no planning applications for mining or any energy plant be approved east of that line.

The photographic project put together by Lorraine Seipel was displayed at the meeting, and the attendees were very impressed by the presentation and quality of the display. This will be seen at the World Environment Day functions in Toowoomba on Sunday 1 June.

This week’s slogan is : Petro Chemcials Out, We Need Farmers Without Doubt

The next meeting will be on Thursday 12th June at 7pm at the Felton Hall : all welcome

Friday, May 30, 2008

The Case Against


Compiled and Submitted by the Friends of Felton



The so-called Felton Clean Coal Demonstration Project (hereafter referred to as the Felton Coal Project) is a Stage 1 development proposal being advocated by Ambre Energy Pty Ltd for a site at Felton, 30 km south west of Toowoomba.

The Friends of Felton is a representative group of concerned residents and citizens, totally opposed to the development. The grounds for the Group’s opposition are simple and include the following:

Large scale coal mining is totally out of character with the social and cultural history of the Felton district.

The Felton area is characterised by intensive, diverse and sustainable farming with some family names having persisted in the district for a hundred years.

Governments have a major role to play in weaning Australia off its dependency on coal for energy production. They can do this by vesting ownership of the licensing role with local communities that have to suffer the externalities associated with mining. With such a condition in place, miners would have to convince those directly affected that their mining operations would make the local community better off.

Despite all the claims, coal is not and cannot become a ‘clean’ industry in either relative or absolute terms. Indeed it remains dirty and dangerous and should be minimised as a source of energy so that other, cleaner forms of energy get the chance to emerge and flourish (see references at the end of this submission).



The Felton Coal Project is being proposed as Stage 1 of a two stage project. Progression to Stage 2 would be dependent on ‘successful’ completion of Stage 1. While opposed to any stage, the Friends of Felton are insistent that no concessions are granted to make progression to Stage 1 somehow easier than if the project was not staged. In other words, the conditions applying to both stages should be tied and immutable. If the project proceeds to Stage 2 as planned, would extract 24 million tonnes of coal per year making it one of the largest in Queensland and four times that of the New Acland mine near Oakey. The planned size of the mine is a major concern for Felton residents as it infers environmental and infrastructure impacts of a proportional magnitude. For a rural area, Felton is densely settled so many people would find themselves adversely affected by the mining related externalities, at and around the site. The affected country (approximately 2,500 hectares) lies in the floor of the Felton Valley and currently supports a fully sustainable agricultural system comprising fertile soils, an uncontaminated and reliable water supply, specialised capital, technical know-how, cultural history and strong social networks. The proposition is to sacrifice this system, with its capacity to provide food and bio-mass in perpetuity, for a high-emissions coal mine that will last for less than 40 years, and compromise any return to productive agriculture postmining.

Under Australian law, the land owner’s usage rights do not automatically extend to mining materials that might lie beneath the surface. Thus ‘someone else’ can acquire mining rights to explore for and take materials buried below land that is the home and means of livelihood of a landholder. This situation is demonstratively unfair and has an in-built capacity for conflict. One of the few defences available to the landholder is the necessity for development proposals (such as mine development) to submit to an Environmental Impact Study (EIS). The EIS must be submitted to pertinent government agencies for approval and the approval itself is based on a demonstrated capacity to comply with a wide range of social, environmental and economic conditions or standards. For an EIS to comply it must satisfy the terms of reference issued in relation to a particular development proposal and these must reference all local, state and federal legislation relevant to a development proposal. Implicit in the term of reference is acceptance of the development proposal by those most affected – the existing residents. The Friends of Felton are not calling for a cessation to coal mining throughout Queensland. We appreciate that mining can benefit an area if it results in stronger demand for core factors of production (such as labour, land, water, etc) without demonstratively damaging the local environment and quality of life. At Felton, however, there is almost universal opposition to the entry and operation of mining. The district is highly viable the way it is – land values are strong (reflecting the productivity of the soils, the intensity of local agriculture and proximity to Toowoomba) and demand for all other factors of production, including labour, is also high. Moreover, the region is highly dependent on ground water and has no surplus supply capacity. In short, the Felton Coal Project cannot offer the local area any positives – only large, harmful and ugly negatives.

Loss of prime agricultural land

The Initial Advice Statement issued by Ambre Energy portends a very large open cut mining operation that would destroy all the natural and agricultural systems currently existing on the land surface. We contend that the prevailing system, incorporating high natural, commercial and social values, has far greater importance to the long term wellbeing of the nation than does this particular coal mine. In aggregate terms, Australia has very little ‘good quality agricultural land’ and yet the area nominated by Ambre Energy for destruction is amongst the very best in the nation. It is widely acknowledged that after open cut mining, the soil’s original capacity can never be restored given changes in soil structure leading to impaired water infiltration and potential for plant growth. The Friends of Felton believe it is unconscionable that a mining company can use its inherent advantages (possessed by virtue of large-scale, an aggressive coal industry lobby and Australian law) to overwhelm the best interests of climate change mitigation, the natural environment and the preferences of the local community. Accordingly we are placing heavy reliance on the comprehensive system of checks and balances, embedded in the EIS process, to expose all the risks and threats associated with the Ambre proposal. Also, we place particular reliance on the sovereignty of the Toowoomba Regional Council, which exists to uphold the express preferences of its constituency.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Australia has now ratified the Kyoto Protocol (for cutting greenhouse gases) and the government has already pledged to cut the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions by 60% by 2050. The recent Garnaut Report said if Australia wants to be serious about saving the planet the reduction target should be up to 90%. Clearly it is time for the nation’s decision makers (at all levels) to draw a line in the sand. This means saying ‘no’ to coal mining proposals that are socially unacceptable because they are not welcome by the local community and because more coal will act to forestall the entry of more environmentally friendly modes of energy generation. It is not as if alternative modes do not exist – SE Queensland has abundant supplies of coal seam gas with Greenhouse Gas emission rates significantly below those for conventional oil production and refining.

Why ‘Clean Coal Demonstration’ at Felton?

Ambre is attempting to fast-track approval of their project by labelling it a ‘demonstration’ and by claiming it will produce the ‘perfect alternative fuel’. The fuel they are referring to is di-methyl ether (or DME) which is made from syngas derived from coal. In a recent press release, Ambre say that DME has only one downside of note viz, it still generates CO2 when combusted in a motor. In fact it has another downside in the form of massive pollution of the site at which the DME is actually produced – in this case the Felton Valley. To assist its case, Ambre might also claim to demonstrate coal CO2 sequestration (CCS). Our information is that the prospects for CO2 sequestration are less than remote before 2030. In any event, there are existing power stations better positioned to trial carbon sequestration and there are Cooperation Research Centres already working on all sorts of coal pollution mitigation. There is no obvious need for a coal mine at Felton to be demonstrating cutting edge technology – if indeed there are any prospects – and the Friends of Felton insist mining should not be allowed to proceed unless a cast iron guarantee can be given that all CO2 would be captured and then permanently and safely sequestered.

Effect on Surface and Underground Water

Stage 2 would need about 5,000 ML per annum of water for coal washing and related purposes. Since there is very little local water the project could acquire, it would have to ‘import’ its needs from other mines, or other waste water sources, located up to 100 km from the nominated site. Ambre’s Initial Advice Statement refers to piping coal seam methane water from the Dalby gas fields. This water is known to be salty and contaminated with other minerals. Use of this water at Felton would pollute the soils and headwaters of the Condamine – an important feeder for the Murray Darling Basin. The EIS must investigate the viability of accessing water from remote sources and should demonstrate no material impacts on downstream communities or to the natural environment associated with run-off. The proponent plans to build a levee bank on the western side of the Hodgson Creek to protect the mine and infrastructure from flooding and to collect runoff water for use by The Felton Coal Project. It also plans to build a large 10,000ML water storage dam. The building of these structures, which would be forbidden for agricultural purposes under the current moratorium, is likely to disrupt the hydrology of the local catchment leading to greatly increased flooding upstream of the project site. Recent flooding of mine sites in Central Queensland highlights the risk of contaminated water escaping into river systems. The EIS should also consider supply and quality threats to local groundwater since adjoining farms are highly dependent on this source for stock and domestic and for irrigation. Given the inter-connective nature of groundwater resources in the region, contamination and drawdown are real and significant threats to the water security.

Effect on rare and endangered species

The project would place at risk populations of a number of nationally and state-listed endangered native species and remnants of listed ecological communities either known to be or likely to be present in the Felton Valley. These include two ‘Endangered’ ecosystems, three ‘Endangered’ species and six ‘Vulnerable’ species which are listed under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, and a further 22 locally-occurring species listed under the Queensland Nature Conservation Act 1992 as rare and threatened (see attached). We are advised that a further six species within the region are currently under review or of uncertain status, including Cymbonotus maideni, Picris barbarorum, Sophora fraseri, Teucrium argutum var. incisum, Senecio daltoni and Tephrosia bidwilli. The EIS must address the lack of comprehensive records for the area and must investigate both the direct and cumulative impact of this development and its associated infrastructure on at risk species and ecological communities, both locally and within the broader context of biodiversity protection.

Effect on Mt Kent Observatory

Mt Kent Observatory (MKO) is located on the eastern side of the Felton Valley, and is a joint facility involving the University of Southern Queensland (USQ), The University of Queensland, and more recently the University of Louisville, Kentucky, US, with whom USQ has a legal contract to provide remote access as part of a NASA-funded project. In addition to its operation as a research and teaching facility, MKO plans to offer live remote observing program for sick children in hospitals worldwide during 2009, the IAU/UNESCO "International Year of Astronomy". MKO is an officially designated dark-sky observatory (D02-5: Astronomical Society of Australia), and clean air and an absence of light pollution are crucial to its effective operation. There are concerns that the Felton Coal Project may represent a significant risk to exposed glass surfaces or coated mirrors and electronics, and may significantly compromise viewing due to light pollution, dust, air-borne particulates and chemical compounds.

Learning from Experiences

A previous foray into ‘synthetic oil’ production, inland from Gladstone, was a dismal failure and ended up costing the state government and the local community millions. The Stuart Oil Shale Project ceased operating less than ten years ago and took with it the YarwunTarginnie horticultural industry – comprising at its peak more than 170 households. For Stage 2 of the Stuart Oil Shale Project, an Economic Impact Study was commissioned as part of a larger Environmental Impact Study. The economic study was undertaken by the Canberra based consultancy ACIL (1999) and concluded that Stage 2 would generate regional benefits by expanding employment and would not adversely affect local agriculture. History has shown the ACIL assessment to be totally wrong. Even when it was operating, the Stuart Oil Shale Project was a small-scale employer and the Queensland government was eventually obliged to buy-out some local farmers. A study by Alliance Resource Economics in 2001 found that non-viable Yarwun-Targinnie farmers had become trapped in the area due to a total collapse in the rural land market. This collapse was brought about by high uncertainty regarding the sustainability of local agriculture following gradual industrialisation of the region culminating in entry of the oil shale mining and processing project.

Several lessons came out of the now defunct Stuart Oil Shale Project. The first is the capacity for uncontrolled externalities (such as dust, noise, vibration, odour and heavy traffic) to damage the productivity of adjoining rural industries, adversely affect the health and lifestyles of neighbours, raise road maintenance costs, increase the risk of traffic accidents and give rise to uncertainty that flows through to market confidence and land values. These are also the experiences of a number of Queensland local councils, as reported in a recent media release from the LGAQ (attached). Another lesson is the cost to investors and taxpayers when unproven technologies fail – either financially or because they eventually fall outside environmental standards. When this happens, both the investment and the associated resources become stranded leaving other parties (e.g. the local council and community) to ‘pick up the bill’. If Ambre were allowed to proceed but subsequently failed, the Felton community would be left with a scarred landscape, drained aquifers, a ruined creek and industrial skeletons. Given that DME production has no commercial track-record, the threats implicit in failure should be top-of-mind when the terms of reference are being developed for The Felton Coal Project EIS.


Assuming that the Felton Coal Project does not attract any public funding, the economic viability of the project is strictly a matter for the proponent. There will, however, still be economic impacts that the EIS must take into account. Most importantly, the study will have to allow for the opportunity losses associated with foregoing the income stream that is currently generated by crops and livestock on the affected area. This income stream will apply in perpetuity and it cannot be assumed that the stream will suddenly re-commence once the mining has finished and gone away. Thus current land prices (at which incumbent landholders would be bought out) might not fully reflect the opportunity losses going forward.

Loss of scenic amenity and reputation

The Felton Valley is currently distinguished by its unity, space, beauty, cleanliness and tranquillity. These qualities are part of our cultural heritage and the reputation of the Darling Downs. At times in the past, these values have been blithely dismissed in the name of ‘progress’. While communities have been struggling for years to express their wish that these and other natural values be preserved, our decision makers have been slow to ‘read the signs’ and to consciously pursue alternatives for satisfying the material necessities of life.

The Friends of Felton are under the impression that the EIS process of years past was a mere rubber stamp. We would like to think that those performed in 2008 or thereafter would be demonstratively rigorous, objective and independent. A point of difference we consider most relevant to future outcomes is the role of local government. By definition, local government is positioned to sense the core concerns of its constituency and rule accordingly. On this basis we wish to leave no room for doubt – the Felton community is implacably opposed to any proposal to mine coal in the Felton Valley. We believe this stance goes beyond our immediate interests – it also accounts for the interests of the wider community and the nation.



ACIL (1999) Economic Impacts of Stage 2 of the Stuart Oil Shale Project, Canberra. Alliance Resource Economics (2001) Economic Future of the Yarwun-Targinnie Horticultural, Pastoral and Allied Industries, Brisbane .
Ambre Energy Ltd (2008) Felton Hybrid Energy Project: Initial Advice Statement .
Diesendorf, M. 2006 Can geosequestration save the coal industry? in J Byrne, Leigh Glover and Noah Toly (eds) Transferring Power as a Social Project Vol 9 Energy and Environmental Policy Series.
LGAQ media release 31 August 2007 “Mining Boom a Bust for Local Councils” aq/newsReleases/2007/miningsoured.html&banner=1&circular=0&publishD ate=

News Release - Mining Boom a Bust for Local Councils

The resources boom has soured for Queensland’s rural and regional councils facing higher infrastructure costs, less economic benefits than in previous booms and widespread community disruption, delegates to the Local Government Association of Queensland’s 111th annual conferences at the Gold Coast heard today. Mayors and councilors from several towns in mining areas warned that high expectations of economic boom times had been replaced by disquiet and disapproval as 12-hour shifts worked over four consecutive days, fly-in, fly-out employment or variations such as drive in or bus in and out meant that communities were left with costs but no benefits. Road safety impacts were becoming horrific as miners who worked long shifts got into their cars to race back to families living elsewhere because there was no family accommodation available in towns near the mines. Despite the lack of housing, people should be cautious about investing in accommodation in expectation of high returns. “They need to realise how unsustainable mining towns are when there is a downturn,” Gladstone City Council’s director of commercial and community services, Cale Dendle, said. He urged councils to engage early with mining companies: “In small communities, people know when strangers are in town punching holes in the ground and then the rumour mill starts.” He said companies were not obliged to talk to councils or the community and often did not want to. It was up to councils to monitor licenses to prospect and mining approvals issued by the state and to let their communities know what was happening and get involved as soon as possible so that issues like housing, education, and economic imposts were built into the terms of reference for the EIS process. Several mayors also voiced concerns that mines producing under $2 million tonnes are not required to lodge an EIS. “We’ve been told in these cases local people can tell from the beginning, just by looking at the equipment coming in, that companies intend to ramp up production once approvals are in place,” Mr Dendle said. However he said while councils had little power in regard to the terms of impact statements and none on mine approval processes, they could use rates as a resource to pay for additional infrastructure costs for water, roads, sewerage and other services. A study on behalf of Bowen Basin mayors has proposed differential rating systems based on the numbers of people working on the mine site and rates paid on other commercial and industrial properties with similar numbers of employees. They could also consider special rates for use of council roads. ENDS. Local Government Association of Queensland LGAQ House, 25 Evelyn Street, Newstead Qld 4006 Contact Phone Fax Mobile Email Cr Paul Bell AM, President, LGAQ 3000 2222 3252 4473 0418 791 596 9

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Friends of Felton Report 13 May 2008

Friends of Felton Report

Massive Mine Planned for Felton

The Friends of Felton public meeting on 13th May heard that the planned production of the proposed Felton Mine could be four times that of the Acland Mine north of Oakey.

The thought of a Felton Mine four times the size of Acland was very concerning for all at the meeting, and it was felt that the surrounding communities were unlikely to be aware of the scale of this proposed enterprise. There are plenty of unanswered questions about pollution, environmental damage and the effect on water supplies causing concerns.

Friends of Felton will be meeting with the Toowoomba Regional Council members to inform them of the issues and discuss the powers of the planning legislation.

Friends of Felton will be present at both of the World Environment Day functions in Toowoomba on the 1st June, with information available for the public and a petition to sign.

A photographic display is being collated showing the richness and beauty of the Felton Valley, and this will be accompanied by a DVD with excellent photos of the threatened area.

The meeting voiced strong concern about a Young Nationals conference motion in support of the mine, which seemed very much at odds with the views of the local National party MP’s. Ray Hopper’s press release of 28 April, which strongly backed the importance of retaining the Felton farmland, is totally against this motion, and the group will make further representation to the National Party MP’s concerning this matter.

Various options to increase awareness about the potential mine and hybrid energy plant were discussed and will be reported on as they occur.


The next meeting will be on the 27th May at 7pm at the Felton Hall : all welcome

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

15th April 2008 Report

Friends of Felton Report

The main discussion point at the Friends of Felton public meeting held on 15th April was the change of plans by Ambre Energy.

Chair of Friends of Felton, Rob McCreath, was contacted last week by Ambre Energy to inform him of their change of direction. Ambre’s original plans were to base the infrastructure for crude oil, DME and gas production on the eastern side of Hodgson Creek.

Friends of Felton understand that Ambre are now planning to set up an initial demonstration plant on the western side of Hodgson Creek to make DME (dimethyl ether) and some gas for the power plant, but no crude oil. They plan to mine less coal (0.75 million tonnes per year) for the first 3 years before ramping up the mining operation to the originally planned 12 million tonnes of coal per year. Ambre want to set this plant up to prove the process, and rename the project as the “Felton Clean Coal Demonstration Project”.

The concerns of the Friends of Felton were not eased by this news at all, especially as feedback received suggests that governmental authority to start the project may be more forthcoming for these initial demonstration plans.

Visitors to the meeting, Friends of the Earth representatives, pointed out that Ambre’s plans to store carbon dioxide underground as a trial and check for leaks was very risky. The carbon capture and storage technology is untested at this stage, and Friends of Felton have no desire to be the guinea pigs in such an experiment.

This week’s slogan is KEEP FELTON GREEN - COAL ISN’T CLEAN

The next public meeting will be held on Tuesday 29th April at the Felton Hall, starting at 7pm. All are welcome to attend.