Friday, July 24, 2009

Agforce stands up for Felton

Agforce Vice President Ian Burnett (centre above), and Senior Policy Advisor Drew Wagner (2nd right) visited Felton on Wednesday to meet with Friends of Felton, and listen to the community's concerns about proposed coal mining developments - in particular Ambre Energy's so-called Felton 'Clean Coal' Project which is the subject of a mining lease application. Ambre Energy is currently preparing an EIS for this project. Attention also focussed on the neighbouring MDL 304, covering some 13,000ha, granted to Newmont Pacific Energy, which includes a large area of prime cropping land.

The point was made that Felton is a test case, being the furthest advanced project to threaten prime agricultural land. Friends of Felton also stressed the inevitable environmental impacts resulting from open-cut mining next to Hodgson Creek, a major tributary of the Condamine River, and in natural recharge areas for underground aquifers. Members of the community highlighted the social consequences of mining in such a closely settled area, and referred to the experience of the Acland community north of Oakey.

Drew Wagner, explained that Agforce has been working hard behind the scenes with the Qld Government on the issue of protecting farmland, and he hoped to see results from that process before too long. FOF members stressed the urgency of the Felton issue, given that Ambre say their EIS will be completed early next year.

A meeting of Agforce Pittsworth Branch was held in the afternoon. The following resolutions were passed unanimously -

1. 'That Agforce acknowledges the devastating effect coal mining development would have on the food production capacity, the natural environment, the watercourses and underground aquifers, and the community of Felton, and does everything in its power to ensure such development does not proceed.'

2. 'That Agforce demands the Queensland Government introduce a moratorium on new mining and gas operations on land suitable for cropping, on land closely associated with rivers and groundwater aquifers, and in closely settled rural areas, until comprehensive land use planning has been undertaken which considers the impact of such operations on agriculture, the natural environment and local communities.'

3. 'That Agforce involve representatives of communities affected by mining in developing a definition of agricultural land worthy of protection from mining development.'

Report below from The Brisbane Times -

Agforce beefs up farmers' fight against coal mines
July 23, 2009

Peak agricultural lobby group Agforce has backed Queensland farmers who are battling coal miners planning to dig up their prime agricultural farmland.
Two mining companies are preparing to mine coal worth billions of dollars which lies just under the surface of the fertile Felton Valley, 40 km south of Toowoomba on the Darling Downs and at the headwaters of the Murray-Darling Basin.

Agforce vice-president Ian Burnett toured the site on Wednesday where a hill will be removed to make way for an open-cut coal mine, which will extract 900 million tons of coal to supply an on-site petro-chemical plant.
Agforce's backing is significant because the broadacre farming group is defending smaller horticultural farmers against large mining interests.
Mr Burnett said mining would risk destroying the underground water aquifers, the closely-settled farming community and the food production of the valley.
"It's certainly good quality prime agricultural land," Mr Burnett told AAP.
"Closely-settled areas haven't been mined before.
"We will try to stop mining here. I believe it could be the opportunity to set a precedent and say 'no' to coal mining," he said.

Mining exploration permits now cover 80 per cent of the state following a 45 per cent increase in mining exploration permits.
Felton Valley spokesman Rob McCreath said Felton was a test case which would determine whether the Queensland Government could find a balance between farming and mining.
"Knowing the Queensland Government has never prevented a mine in order to protect farmland makes us more determined to win this fight," he said.
"The Premier herself has said there has got to be a balance between mining and agriculture.
"How can there be a balance if no mine has ever been stopped?"
Mr McReath said approval for the mine would set a precedent that mining will be allowed anywhere.
He said Australia had little fertile farming land and it was now urgent that it be protected for food production.
Premier Anna Bligh has been invited to tour the district but has not taken up the invitation yet.
"There's an open invitation. I really hope she comes. We'd love to show her around," Mr McCreath said.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Top Secret Community Liason Group

Ambre Energy's community liason process for its so-called Felton 'Clean Coal' Project has been exposed as a farce. A community liason group (CLG) was established by the company last month, and the first meeting was held on 11th June.

Amazingly enough, Ambre Energy has refused to tell Friends of Felton who the members of the CLG are, saying it had been decided to keep this information confidential!

Here's a section from Ambre Energy's own Terms of Reference for their CLG -

AmbreEnergy has started a consultative process with relevant interested parties. A key aspect of this process is discussions with landowners and community members directly affected by the Project to identify any areas of concern. This process will continue and includes identification of all stakeholders, discussion with Local, State and Federal Government representatives, communication plans and consultation and negotiation on measures required to address compliance and community concerns.

AmbreEnergy will establish a Community Liaison Group (CLG)in 2009 as part of this consultation program. The CLG will provide a forum for discussion and exchange of views and information of relevance to the project.

The CLG will operate as part of an open and structured community consultation process. Information will be exchanged that will directly contribute to the EIS and aid AmbreEnergy’s understanding of the community and the potential impact the project.

How can this be an "open and structured community consultation process" if they won't tell the community who's on the CLG?


Thursday, July 9, 2009

Statement from Anglican, Catholic, and Uniting Churches

A Statement of Concern Regarding Mining and Agriculture on the Darling Downs

The local leadership of the Anglican, Catholic and Uniting Churches on the Darling Downs have great concerns about the impact of some proposed mining activity on prime agricultural land. They support calls for a regional plan that would identify areas which could be mined and others which should be kept for sustainable agriculture and food production. Two areas in the region currently under consideration for coal mining are Felton and Haystack Plain.

Caring for creation is a strong part of the three Christian traditions. We believe that we are called to be wise stewards of the earth. In terms of our fragile planet we are facing an ecological crisis. Respect for nature and ecological responsibility are key parts of our faith.

Transformation to wise and sustainable use of the environment is at heart a spiritual matter. Environmental concern is a legitimate and necessary part of a Christian's response to God's loving provision for us. (Green by Grace A Report prepared for the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Australia 2004)
Experience shows that disregard for the environment always harms human coexistence, and vice versa. It becomes more and more evident that there is an inseparable link between peace with creation and peace. (Message of his Holiness Pope Benedict XVI for the celebration of the World Day of Peace 1 January 2007)
We are concerned with the basic human rights of future generations and will urge the wise use of energy, the protection of the environment and the replenishment of the earth’s resources for their use and enjoyment. (Uniting Church, Statement to the Nation, 1977)

As communities of faith we stand in solidarity with those farmers who fear for their security and future way of life at this time. We also understand the contribution of mining and the generation of electricity in our region. We have a particular perspective on development which centres on the human person, the family and the community. When we consider future planning or development our primary question would be, “What is happening to the people?” rather than “What is happening to the economy?”

With the current world food shortage we believe it is important to protect land that has a history of sustainable food production. With a growing understanding about the impact of climate change we would also urge the Queensland State government to consider alternatives to coal mining in the Felton and Haystack Plain districts. These alternatives should be more sustainable and contribute more to the local community and economy.

We have concerns that the proposed coal mines will have an irreversible damaging impact on the soil and people of Haystack Plains and Felton. We would urge respectful and genuine dialogue between the resources and agricultural sector. For generations farmers in the Felton and Haystack Plains district have produced food for the wider Australian and international community. They have adapted their practises to ensure that future families can also live from and with the land. Our hope is that decisions made on the future use of these areas are based on the common good of all humanity.

Bishop Rob Nolan (Bishop of the Western Region, Anglican Diocese of Brisbane)

Bishop William Morris (Catholic Diocese of Toowoomba)

Sharon Kirk (Presbytery Minister Uniting Church in Australia Downs Presbytery)