A new report by expert and former General Manager of Water Allocation and Planning in the Qld Government, Tom Crothers, has warned that providing miners with a statutory right to take water is likely to result in the ‘unsustainable take of groundwater’ and may lead to ‘total loss of water supplies’ for other water users, including farmers.
The study, Report on Statutory Rights to Groundwater, was commissioned by Lock the Gate Alliance. An Executive summary of the report is available here.
A recently leaked departmental document revealed that Qld ALP Government was considering implementing Newman Government law changes which give unlimited access to groundwater resources to mining companies, and exempt miners from the constraints that other water users would have to comply with.
Before the election, the Qld ALP gave firm written commitments that they would ‘repeal the Newman Government’s water laws’ and promised to prevent ‘over-allocation of Queensland’s precious water resources’. They are now preparing to backflip on those promises.
“My review of the Newman Government water laws which are designed to give miners a statutory right to take underground water raises a number of alarms about the likely negative impacts for water resources,” Mr Crothers said.
“The consequences are very severe and far-reaching – they mean that the Qld Government is giving up the powers which it has to prevent miners from extracting vast quantities of water to unsustainable levels during mining operations.
“They also mean that the rights of landholders to object to the granting of water licences will be lost and the role of the Land Court as a crucial independent arbiter will also be removed.
“Farmers and rural landholders have a lot to lose if the Qld Government goes down this path and effectively gives up its powers to prevent unsustainable impacts on scarce water supplies by mining companies.
“Large parts of Qld are in drought and another El Nino system is predicted to bring even more hot, dry weather.
“The Qld Government should be acting urgently to put in place stronger controls to protect our precious groundwater resources from mining, not weakening them and putting farm supplies at even greater risk as a result.”
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.
Copies of the full report are available on request.