Farmers say coal will be royalty-free
Steve GrayMay 12, 2009
Approval of an open-cut coal mine on the Darling Downs would provide no financial benefit to Queensland taxpayers, say farmers whose land is threatened.
Farmers have legal advice indicating that Ambre Energy would not have to pay any royalties on the coal it intends to mine.
Ambre Energy plans to build a 12.8 million tonne a year open-cut coal mine, a petrochemical plant to convert the coal into liquid fuel, and a power station in the Felton Valley, 30km southwest of Toowoomba.
Local farmers and the community, who have formed the Friends of Felton, say the mine would destroy some of the finest agricultural land in Australia and have negative social and environmental impacts.
Spokesman Rob McCreath said the group had been advised that no royalties would be payable to the state, meaning the mine would have no direct economic benefit to taxpayers.
"Legal advice obtained by Friends of Felton indicates that royalties payable on any coal mined at Felton would not be payable to the Queensland government," Mr McCreath said.
He said a section of Queensland mining laws stated that "coal on or below the surface of the land is the property of the crown, except where that land was alienated in fee simple by the crown before 1 March, 1910".
"Farms at Felton were granted freehold title long before 1910," Mr McCreath said.
Asked if that was a correct interpretation of the law, Mines Minister Stephen Robertson said it was too early to discuss royalties.
"We first need to establish if there is going to be a mine at all before royalties are discussed," Mr Robertson said.
"All new mines must first meet the Queensland government's statutory requirements, particularly in relation to environmental standards, before any approval is granted.
"The public interest test will balance a range of considerations including environmental, economical and social impacts across the community."
Mr Robertson said the proposal would not go ahead unless it was in the best interests of the people of Queensland.
"Given the assessment process is still ongoing, it is far too early to make that decision."
Mr McCreath told AAP the project "clearly fails the public interest test".
A spokesman for Ambre Energy, Neil McGregor, said royalties would be paid on the coal, although in a small number of cases royalties could go to the landholder rather than the state.
"We won't know that until we investigate individual title documents," Mr McGregor said.
© 2009 AAP