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EDO Qld welcomes community objection rights; warns stricter guidelines still needed

18 April 2016

Environmental Defenders Office Queensland again congratulates Minister Lynham and the Queensland Government for taking the final step towards fully restoring community objection rights to mining proposals; noting stricter guidelines are still needed.

EDO Queensland fronted the Infrastructure, Planning and Natural Resources Parliamentary Committee on Monday as part of our continued commitment to work with the State Government to fully reinstate rights after the Newman LNP Government took them away.

EDO Qld CEO Jo Bragg said: “Minister Lynham and the Queensland Government are to be congratulated in this next step to fully restoring community objection rights to mining proposals with the Mineral and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2016, after restoring rights for major projects in mid-2015.

“EDO Qld has been leading the fight to have these community objection rights reinstated. There is no evidence whatsoever that these rights are abused – in fact the opposite is the case. These rights are are vital to avoid disastrous holes in the ground to help refuse or add strict conditions to bad projects, such as the Alpha coal mine case where serious groundwater impacts were exposed by the community,” Ms Bragg said.

“Just like the Chain of Responsibility is vital for government to make companies such as Queensland Nickel and Linc Energy clean up their mess when things go wrong during operation, community objection rights are important to scutinise projects before they start in order to hold their owners to account on exaggerated benefits and underplayed costs,” she said.

“The importance of community objection rights can be seen in a number of cases such as the Adani Carmichael mine case, where it took the community group objecting in the Land Court to expose the 10,000 jobs claimed by Adani was grossly inflated and the reality was the project would result in a mere 1,464 net jobs across the country.

“The reality is the mining industry doesn’t like the scrutiny of legitimate, valid objections to their massive mines. Rather than accepting that in a democracy massive projects need thorough scrutiny, the mining industry now wants to rush objector timeframes in the Land Court. There is no credible basis for complaints from the mining industry about time-frames in the Land Court.

“The New Acland Coal mine expansion case currently before the Land Court is an excellent example of why we need proper and non-rushed access to justice for community members. Many landholders get up at 4:30am to do work around the farm and are trying to plough fields, manage stock as well as be involved in a stressful court case fighting for their groundwater, health and community rights. The process needs to allow these valid concerns to be raised rather than rushed.

“EDO Qld has raised many suggestions for improvement that will increase access to justice for the community. To improve the objection process, we also still need stricter quality guidelines on data in Environmental Impact Statements from mining companies and more assistance for objectors earlier on in the assessment process.

“In a State with 15,000 abandoned mine sites we also want proper processes not more polluted sites. To avoid more abandoned or un-rehabilitated sites we also urgently need to see tightening of requirements for bonds or financial assurances for mines.”