Bill important step towards return of community objection rights
23 February 2016
Ms Jo Bragg, CEO and solicitor of EDO Qld said today:
Minister Lynham and the Queensland Government are to be congratulated for taking another step to fully restore community objection rights to mining proposals with the Mineral and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2016.
Unless they are scrutinised, the mining industry routinely exaggerates the benefits of their mining proposals and underplay the costs. We have seen this in the Adani Carmichael mine case, where it took the community group objecting in the Land Court to expose that the 10,000 jobs claimed by Adani was actually a mere 1,464 net jobs across the country. We have also seen this in the Alpha Coal case, where the serious groundwater impacts were only exposed through community and landholder objectors to the Land Court.
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 timeframes in the Land Court. The Queensland community and our children will thank the objectors for looking after the future of Queensland. Minister Lynham has done the right thing for the future with this Bill.
EDO Qld has raised many suggestions for improvement that will increase access to justice for the community. The reforms that EDO Qld say are needed, relating to improve the objection process, include: stricter quality guidelines on data in Environmental Impact Statements (earlier in the assessment processes) from mining companies and more assistance for objectors.
The New Acland Coal mine expansion case, due to start before the Land Court on 7 March, is an excellent example why we need proper 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. Other objectors are concerned about mining destroying prospects of sustainable long-term land use, such as the retention of cropping land. Air quality and groundwater impacts are also crucial. The process needs to allow these valid concerns to be raised rather than rushed.
In a State with 15,000 abandoned mine sites we want proper processes not more polluted sites. To avoid more abandoned or unrehabilitated sites we also urgently need to see tightening of requirements for bonds or financial assurances for mines.