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Farmers, miners at war over property damage so bad it's 'visible from space'

Business

Farmers and the mining sector are squaring up again over environmental issues and the rehabilitation of old mines, some of which AgForce claims are so extensive they can be seen from space.

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The dispute is centred on planned legislation that would enable the appointment of a rehabilitation commissioner to oversee the restoration of land affected by mining as well as address landholder concerns about residual risk.

The Queensland Resources Council said it would oppose the legislation if it went ahead in present form and was critical of the Government’s handling of the issue and the lack of consultation.

The QRC questioned whether the planned rehabilitation commissioner was necessary while Agforce said it thought the commissioner would not have enough power.

But in a submission to a parliamentary inquiry on the legislation, Agforce said it was a welcome change from what it described as “appalling’’ governance of rehabilitation over the years.

“This is evidenced by the lack of rehabilitation in large scale legacy mining pits, such as the Dawson Mine, that can be easily seen from space, and stretches from Banana past Moura and onto Theodore.

“Several examples abound, including the Blackwater mine, the string of mines from Middlemount past Dysart and then past Moura, as well as at specific locations such as Clermont, Coppabella or Hail Creek.’’

AgForce said that on the Keilambete property west of Emerald – owned by Judith and Cameron Hicks  –  numerous stock have drowned in abandoned pits “strewn’’ across the mining lease area and the family has dealt with millions of dollars worth in costs over the issue.

“The Hicks (family) have had to deal with the issue of inadequate rehabilitation from every mining lease on their property for 20 years,’’ AgForce said.

“They have lost more than 30 stock, have spent enormous amounts of time checking pits during dry times and have ultimately lost significantly from reduced property value.

“A conservative account of stock loss and excess time checking for stock during the last seven years of drought sees that the Hick family has lost over $235,000. Add to this the significant loss in property value and they are out-of-pocket well in excess of $1 million.

“The Rehabilitation Commission (should) be given discrete regulatory powers to instruct the Department of Environment and Science and the Department of Natural Resources, Mining and Energy to enforce rehabilitation compliance requirements.’’

QRC chief executive Ian Macfarlane said the “very poor consultation process’’ surrounding the planned amendments left questions about its cost and impact on the industry unanswered.

“Our industries adhere to some of the strictest environmental regulations in the world but was held back by a lack of genuine consultation from Government during the preparation of this legislation,’’ he said.

“The Government’s legislation doesn’t give the industry confidence that the Rehabilitation Commissioner will have sound knowledge and experience in how the mining sector operates, and hence rehabilitates, across different commodities and having regard to different technical considerations.’’

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