Farmers to foot the bill for mining contaminants?

Published: March 25, 2014

The Lock the Gate Alliance is calling for an inquiry to determine whether farmers are liable if their cattle are affected by water or food contaminated by coal seam gas.

Lock the Gate’s National Coordinator, Phil Laird said a media report yesterday raised serious questions about whether farmers would have to pay the price for contamination caused by mining companies. 

An extensive report was completed last year but its contents remain “secret”. See the Beef Central story here: http://bit.ly/1f9c6f7   

The Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) funded the report for the Cattle Council of Australia (CCA) and the Australian Lot Feeders Association (ALFA).

The legal firm engaged to provide advice said the information was legally sensitive and ‘due to the fact that it advises liability, the firm advised that the report itself shouldn’t be released’.

Mr Laird, a New South Wales beef farmer, said the government and the mining industry should clarify who was legally liable.

He cited the example in the Pillaga state forest in NSW where water was contaminated at an aquifer because of a poorly constructed holding pond about four kilometres from where a stock and domestic bore was connected to the same source. The EPA fined Santos $1500 for the contamination.

"Livestock producers are concerned that they may be liable if standard residue tests find their animals are affected by contaminants from CSG,” he said.

“The beef and dairy industry in Queensland and northern New South Wales relies on its clean and green image. After the double whammy of drought and live exports, Australia's cattle industry cannot afford any impact whatsoever to domestic or export markets due to CSG.

“We’re talking billions of dollars and thousands of livelihoods at stake here and the Federal Government and the miners must give us straight answers.”

Lee McNicholl, a beef farmer and veterinarian on Queensland’s Darling Downs also has concerns. “Farmers living in or near a gasfield often have little knowledge of, or control over contaminants so we face great financial uncertainty if we’re held liable,” he said.

Contacts:

Phil Laird, Lock the Gate National Coordinator Ph: 0428 712 622

Drew Hutton, Lock the Gate National President Ph: 0428 487 110

Lee McNicholl, veterinarian & farmer Ph: (07) 4627 6364

Kate Dennehy, Lock the Gate Qld Campaign Coordination Ph: 0419 432 624

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