The Queensland Palaszczuk Government is scrambling to retrospectively fix extraordinary administration blunders that mean nearly 1000 mining projects - likely including the controversial New Acland Coal Mine - are technically invalid.
But Lock the Gate Alliance argues the government’s attempt to fix these mistakes - through what’s known as the ROLA Bill - proposes no additional oversight or transparency to ensure the problem does not occur again.
The administrative blunders, where “instruments of lease” were not issued, occurred between 1989 and 2010, and affected 86 coal mining leases and 847 mining leases for other minerals.
Because stages 1 and 2 of the New Acland coal mine were approved during this period, it's likely its lease too is technically invalid.
Worryingly, the Bill proposed by the Palaszczuk Government to supposedly rectify the problem would also allow some older Authorities to Prospect (ATP) that cover gas reserves to be extended indefinitely.
This would include 11 Blue Energy/Origin Energy petroleum lease applications that could lead to fracking on the floodplains of the mighty Cooper Creek in the Lake Eyre Basin - a part of Queensland government scientists deemed too sensitive for fracking.
In response to a Question on Notice earlier this year the Resources Minister confirmed that Blue Energy had not undertaken any of the exploration work required under the ATPs
More details concerning the proposed Bill are contained in the First Reading Speech.
Lock the Gate Alliance spokesperson Ellie Smith said at the very least, the government should use this opportunity to create a public, easily accessible list of all mining and gas tenements and renewals, similar to what exists in other states.
“What has occurred is similar to allowing motorists to drive around without valid driving licences. Major corporations have failed to ensure they had valid copies of leases for the mines they were operating, and the Queensland Government failed to follow the correct process,” she said.
“This bureaucratic blunder is a symptom of deeper systemic failings in basic management and administration of mining law in Queensland, and underscores broader problems with weak regulation marked by a lack of public transparency and vastly inadequate compliance and enforcement.
“In light of these revelations, it’s little surprise an internal audit last year found the Queensland Government has effectively lost track of the fracking industry in the state.”
“We totally oppose the indefinite extension of gas ATPs issued under the 1923 act. In particular, the four Blue Energy ATPs* in the mighty Cooper Creek floodplain should not be provided special extensions.”
“According to the Queensland Government, Blue Energy has not completed any of the work required under its work plan for the ATPs and therefore should not be eligible for production licences at all, let alone the special extension provided in this bill."
Brymaroo farmer Frank Ashman, who has spent years battling the New Acland coal mine, said this latest news was a slap in the face for Darling Downs landholders.
“To learn we have endured so much hardship fighting the New Acland coal mine while it was likely not even in possession of a valid mining lease, is a real kick in the teeth,” he said.
“This shows the utter contempt successive Queensland governments have shown towards farmers who just want to be left in peace so they can provide food and fibre for Australians.
“It is typical the government would now scramble to help its buddies in the coal and gas industries without actually fixing the problem that has left them in this mess.”
Members of the public had until July 12 to make submissions in response to the Bill, which would retrospectively legalise the mining projects. A committee report is due to be released in response today (Friday, August 6). Submissions, including Lock the Gate Alliance’s submission, can be seen here.
*ATPs 656, 657, 658, 660