Many rural Queenslanders and community groups have expressed outrage at the removal of public objection rights for the majority of mining projects, proposed in the Mineral and Energy Resources (Common Provisions) Bill 2014.
The Bill proposes that public notification and objection rights to the Land Court will remain for so called ‘site specific’ mining applications, that is in effect only 10% of mining projects.
For the other 90% of mining projects there will no longer be any public notification and only individuals deemed to be “affected persons” under a narrow definition in the legislation will be able to object to the Land Court.
“Affected persons” do not include neighbours of mining projects who deal with the dust and noise. It does not include farmers living downstream or community groups who may have to face the environmental and social impacts of mines in their region.
Dr Nicki Laws, Secretary of the Oakey Coal Action Alliance believes any group or individual should have the right to go to the Land Court and object against something they feel is unfair to their community.
“Mining projects and infrastructure pose grave risks, whether they are small mines or massive 60,000 hectare leases. Even small mines may last for decades and have serious impacts on the local economy, ecology, environment and society”, she said.
Jo-Anne Bragg, Principal Solicitor at the Environmental Defenders Office Queensland, recently visited a number of community groups and individuals in regional Queensland who all strongly oppose these changes.
“It is in the public interest that there is the widest possible community scrutiny of all mines to identify and properly consider the serious potential impacts and weight them against benefits. A right to object to the Land Court for any person or group is an important existing right- much more powerful than consultation or submissions that could be ignored”, she said.
Ms Bragg noted that objections are widely recognized as a valuable deterrent to corruption, however, the Queensland Government does not acknowledge that deterrent.
“The Queensland Government alleges that individuals and groups have been deliberately lodging objections to delay or obstruct mining projects, however, there is absolutely no evidence of this.
"Minister Cripps has resisted fair and democratic debate on these proposed changes. He has failed to acknowledge that a clear majority of 176 community submissions on the discussion paper earlier this year- from both rural and urban submitters- strongly opposed these changes”.