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Why the earth rumbles at Hopeland: coal seam gas

A serious explosion at a water bore in Queensland shows farmers and communities should be very concerned about coal seam gas, despite government and industry reassurances to the contrary.

Shay Dougall of the Hopeland Community Sustainability Group said a water bore at Hopeland, near Chinchilla on the Western Downs let out a loud bang about 6.30 on Thursday (Nov. 20). She said a huge gush of water and gas spouted metres into the sky and continued to release water for another day.  There is a thin white crust around the bore, the eerie sound of gas rushing out of it and a side-to-side movement to the casing.

Mrs Dougall said the bore had been disused but stable for at least 30 years. The bore is in the Walloon coal measures on prime agricultural land. The property where the bore is located is on an Arrow tenement but Origin is the coal seam gas company with a gasfield about 10 kilometres away.

“Bores are the lifeblood of farming out here to water stock and to supply an alternative water source to the farmer in times of drought,” she said. “This reckless practice by mining companies must stop now or we’ll lose our livelihoods,” she said.

It is understood the State Government’s CSG Compliance Unit had visited the property.

Lock the Gate Alliance president, Drew Hutton said the bore blow-out should signal the end of underground water being drawn from the Walloon Coal Measures in the whole region.

Mr Hutton said the blow-out was “undoubtedly the result of de-pressurisation in the gasfield” which then allows gas to be released across the area.

“Gas is being released from the coal seam as it is being de-pressurised with the removal of water from the coal seam aquifer and that gas is coming up across the Western Downs – inside and outside bore casings, through cracks in the ground and in the water itself,” he said.

“In 2008 we saw one water bore blow out at Hopeland, another in 2010 and in 2012 the Condamine River started bubbling.

“These events are occurring because of the coal seam gas activity in the area but all we hear from the companies and the government is spin.

“The companies are supposed to ‘make good’ for all bores that lose water but farmers on the Western Downs are reporting great difficulty in negotiating satisfactory outcomes.

“This is hardly surprising since the Walloons are being drained and there is almost no water left in the system to allocate to farmers.

 “If farmers cannot get underground water to replace what they have lost, then they have no choice but to walk off their properties. This is a potential social disaster.”

Mr Hutton said the blow-out reinforced the research findings from the Southern Cross University who found very high levels of methane across the gasfields in the area between Chinchilla and Tara and that the isotopic ‘fingerprint’ of this gas showed it came from the coal seam.

“Until the State Government is prepared to act to fully protect landowners, then every farm gate should be locked to coal seam gas,” he said.

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