Farmers, Traditional Owners, demand right to say "no" to mining: COAG meeting

Published: December 02, 2015

Seventy-nine farmers, landholders and traditional owners from every state and territory across Australia have sent a letter to Minister Frydenberg and the state ministers calling on them to give landholders the right to say ‘no’ to mining.

In October, Minister Josh Frydenberg said he'd put the issue of a farmers right to say 'no' on the agenda of the next meeting of COAG Mining and Energy Ministers, which is due to be held this Friday (4 December).

Signatories to the letter call on Australians government to:

  • Reach an agreement at COAG to legislate the legal right for landholders and Traditional Owners to say ‘no’ to access by coal and unconventional gas mining companies.
  • Provide state and territory governments six months to deliver legislative changes to that effect, and if they are not forthcoming, create national legislation using relevant powers.
  • Immediately commission an inquiry by the ACCC, using powers it already has, to investigate whether the unconventional gas industry have engaged in unconscionable conduct in their dealings with landholders.

The signatories include beef graziers, wine-makers, landholders struggling in the centre of the Queensland gasfields and the coalfields of the Hunter Valley, and Traditional Owners from the Kimberley, the Northern Territory and New South Wales,.

Phil Laird, National Coordinator at Lock the Gate Alliance, said mining companies must not be allowed to bully and intimidate farmers and Traditional Owners, and to drag them through the courts.

“Many farmers and Traditional Owners feel isolated and powerless against mining companies and are suffering severe stress as a result,” he said.

“Our political leaders must do more to protect people from the worst excesses of the mining and gas industries, and they must do it now.”

Letter signatory Peter Martin has been forced into arbitration by a coal mining company seeking to access his land in the Southern Highlands of NSW, and knows how unfair the system is for landholders facing off against mining giants.

“I’ve experienced firsthand the severe bullying and unethical tactics employed by mining giants. The system hands them all the power and hangs us out to dry. It’s completely unacceptable in modern Australia,” he said.

“There has been enough talk about the rights that farmers and landholders ‘should’ have to protect their land, their water and their communities.

“What this COAG meeting needs to give is the right under law to say no to mining companies if we choose.”

Letter signatory, Dr Anne Poelina, a respected Nyikina leader, said mining companies only listen to Indigenous groups who support them – those who oppose mining on their land are not given a fair hearing.

“We are at a critical point in our history where some of the proposed mining and unconventional gas developments present a real threat to the land, water, food and energy security, as well as our Kimberley way of life,” she said.

“I am not against resource development if it can be done in an ethical and responsible way. However, if science and industry is not certain of the safety, and the cultural issues are not resolved; traditional custodians must have the right to veto mining on their land.”

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