News | 20th Sep, 2011

Farmland needs protection from CSG: VFF

Tuesday, 20 September 2011
Weekly Times

No-go zones for coal seam gas projects should be set up to protect high food-production areas, Victorian farmers say.

The call comes as green groups call for the coal seam gas industry to be suspended until the technology's environmental impacts are fully known.

Queensland has seen a large expansion of the CSG industry over the past few years in areas such as the Bowen, Galilee and Surat basins.

The Victorian parliament is holding an inquiry into mineral exploration and mining, while the NSW parliament is specifically examining the CGS industry, which extracts methane from the coal bed.

Alex Arbuthnot, from the Victorian Farmers' Federation, says areas of high food production should be protected from CSG mining.

"Food security, following the adoption of a national food plan and perhaps a Victorian food plan next year . . . is going to become a major, major issue," he told the Victorian inquiry.

"I have flagged to the mining industry here, there could be some no-go zones for food."

The NSW Farmers Association has said landowners should have the right to refuse mining companies access to their property.

Mr Arbuthnot, a Gippsland farmer who sits on the Clean Coal Victoria advisory committee, said he supported giving landowners the right to negotiate.

"I have no objection to farmers having a right to say no, as long as they have the right to say yes, too," he told the Victorian inquiry.

"I would earn a lot more from a coal seam gas well on my farm than I would from milking cows, and I wouldn't have to get up at four o'clock in the morning."

Mr Arbuthnot said while CSG was not as intrusive as other mining operations, pipes under farmland were a concern.

Environment Victoria campaigns director Mark Wakeham said the process could be dangerous because of the chemicals used by mining companies to fracture rock and the potential for methane to leak.

"It's quite a damaging new process," he said.

Mr Wakeham said there should be a moratorium on CSG projects until the full environmental impacts are known, which could take a number of years.

"In Victoria we've got an opportunity to get a handle on the industry and work out what the impacts of it are . . . before we start issuing exploration and mining licences."

In its submission, the Minerals Council of Australia said Victoria had lost mining market share to other states and was no longer viewed as an attractive place to invest.

The inquiry, held by the economic development and infrastructure committee, is due to report to government by February 8 next year. 


More information

Read more about the inquiry here

Download Environment Victoria’s Submission to the Inquiry

Learn more about coal exploration in Victoria with CoalWatch