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New report shows worsening impacts of expanding coal seam gas on Western Downs

The latest report from the government department charged with monitoring coal seam gas on the Western Downs reveals worrying new and worsening impacts the industry is having on farmland and groundwater.

For the first time, the latest Underground Water Impact Report (UWIR) conducted modelling on subsidence caused by CSG activity, where depressurisation beneath the surface is making prime farmland sink. 

The report identifies hundreds of square metres of subsidence of up to 15cm in some districts (Page 107), which could have significant impacts on laser levelled cropping farms.

The latest report also looks at the impact of coal mines for the first time including New Acland, where a groundwater drop in the immediate vicinity of the mine of up to 20 metres was identified (Page 66).

More than 700 water bores used by farmers are now expected to be drained, up from 528 first identified in the original UWIR - an increase of about a third.

The report shows CSG water take is increasing, with the industry now extracting 54 billion litres each year.

More than 22,000 CSG wells are now expected to be drilled across the Western Downs, with about 8,600 already operating.

Dalby farmer Zena Ronnfeldt, whose property is sinking in irregular patches and whose water dam started leaking after horizontal CSG wells were illegally dug under her property, said the modelling provided by the Office of Groundwater Assessment for the report did not paint the full picture.

“They are averaging large amounts of data - there is no way the modelling will pick up the irregular patches of subsidence that are happening over time, including on our property,” she said.

“I don’t believe the people doing the modelling understand farming activities in these closely settled intensively cropped areas. 

“It’s impacting our land because it is not uniform. Averages mean nothing when you’re out there in the paddock on a machine that’s become bogged while trying to conduct farming operations.”

Lock the Gate Alliance Queensland spokesperson Ellie Smith said each successive Underground Water Impact Report showed the impact of CSG on groundwater and farmland was worsening.

“The dramatic increase in the number of water bores predicted to be drained shows the government is behind the eight ball. The green light was given, and continues to be given, to the voracious coal seam gas industry without a thorough understanding of how it threatens farmland and groundwater across the Western Downs,” she said. 

“The unrelenting march of the coal seam gas industry is having a profound impact on Queensland farmers’ ability to grow food and fibre, and this report shows it’s only going to get worse.

“As well, for the first time, this report confirms what we’ve long argued - that the New Acland coal mine has already had a significant impact on groundwater in the area near Oakey where many farmers have reported drops in groundwater levels.

“This impact too will only worsen if New Hope’s Stage 3 expansion plans are approved.”

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