News | 27th Mar, 2012

Residents afraid mine genie’s escaped

Tuesday, 27 March 2012
Claire Knox, Melton Weekly

State government plans to ramp up a brown coal campaign have fuelled fear among Moorabool residents, with speculation rife that an open-cut mine in Bacchus Marsh could become a reality.

Mining companies are preparing bids to extract billions of tonnes of brown coal from the Latrobe Valley, but Greens leader Greg Barber and Environment Victoria warned it could apply to areas like Bacchus Marsh.

"Everyone bought the line that this was all about the Latrobe Valley. That's crap. Anywhere there is a port there will be this giant sucking sound," Mr Barber said.

"The number of these exploration licences going off is like bombs dropping. You don't know where to run."

The Age last week reported the government was preparing a campaign to promote development of brown coal reserves, as it confirmed plans to open up new coal allocations.

Mr Barber said Premier Ted Baillieu needed to use powers under the Mining Act to create exempt areas and restrict certain types of mining to designated areas.

"That would be to the benefit of locals and shareholders. We only have a decade or two to get to zero emissions and none of this is going to help," he said.

"I don't think it will be economically viable. Stop throwing money away."

Moorabool Environment Group president Deb Porter and Parwan Landcare member Kate Tubbs said the coal push was against the community's wishes.

"It's not just a piece of land to us, it's our home," Mrs Tubbs said.

"We hear tales of generations of people travelling to Bacchus Marsh for the produce. You don't travel to the Latrobe Valley to buy fresh fruit and veg. If a coal mine goes ahead here it will stop that, too."

Moorabool Council expressed disappointment at the announcement, calling for more say on mining in the shire.

"I'm wondering if this means the state government will be doing everything in its power to push coal mining without consideration for local people and property," mayor Pat Griffin said.

Environment Victoria's Victoria McKenzie-McHarg said anyone living near a large quantity of coal should be worried.

She said the gates had been "opened up" and mining exploration licences often indicated an intention to mine.

"Once exploration has started the genie is out of the bottle."

Mantle's exploration manager Callum Lamont said discussion on mining, infrastructure and any other physical consequences of the resource development was premature.

Energy and Resources Minister Michael O'Brien did not respond to requests for comment. 

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