State Government wants to give miners unlimited rights to take precious groundwater

Published: September 30, 2015

Queenslanders should be outraged that the State Government is considering giving unlimited access to groundwater resources to mining companies while other water users have to comply with strict limits.

According to an ABC report today the government is considering back-flipping on its pre-election promise to prevent coal miners from extracting unlimited amounts of groundwater during mining operations.

Lock the Gate Alliance President, Drew Hutton said this would be “a disgraceful breach of trust” by the ALP.

“The now Deputy Premier, Jackie Trad and the ALP argued vigorously against this change to water allocations while in Opposition. They must honour that stance now they are in government,” he said.

“Farmers and rural landholders are at risk of losing their precious water supplies if this change goes through and it’s simply not fair that miners are given more rights than other Queenslanders.”

The Newman Government introduced laws in late 2014 to give miners a statutory right to take underground water.  The relevant provisions were set down in Part 4 of the Water Reform and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2014 (WROLAA).  Although the Act passed, Part 4 has not yet been proclaimed.

Last November in State Parliament, former Shadow Environment Minister Trad described the bill thus: “In essence, this is a shameful bill. It is an utter disgrace”.

Ms Trad, while in Opposition, also recognised the inadequacies of the proposed ‘make good arrangements’ saying at the time: “If water is extracted on an unsustainable basis from the Great Artesian Basin it will be lost forever" and “Only a Labor Government will ensure the sustainable management of our State's water resources based on the principles of ecologically sustainable development.”

It is predicted that New Hope’s Acland Stage 3 coal mine on the eastern Darling Downs will impact the Great Artesian Basin, and causes water levels to drop in a number of groundwater aquifers, including those used by Frank and Lynn Ashman, beef cattle stud owners of Brymaroo.

The Ashmans, members of the Oakey Coal Action Alliance who are planning to fight the mine expansion in the Land Court, said their livelihood would be over if they couldn’t water their stock.

“It’s just unfair after the investment we’ve made in the stud that we could lose it because the government wants to take our water and give it to a mining company,” Mr Ashman said.

“The New Hope mine expansion will involve digging 75 to 80 metres below ground level to reach the coal reserves which involves cutting through aquifers releasing water into their pit.”

Mr Hutton said if the State Government was really committed to open, accountable, transparent governance, as it claimed to be, it would reverse this proposal.

Once the mining companies have the statutory right to water, affected farmers would not be able to dispute it in the Land Court, he said.

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