Mining developments encroaching on city streets

James Nason, 20/06/2011

First it was prime agricultural land, now suburban houses and city streets are in the sites of coal and coal seam gas industry speculators.

The “mad rush” by resources companies to exploit mineral and gas reserves across eastern Australia seems to be bordering on the farcical, with large parts of the regional city of Toowoomba on Queensland’s Darling Downs now included in proposed exploration areas.

The Queensland Government has awarded BNG Pty Ltd, a subsidiary of Arrow Energy, a petroleum exploration permit that encroaches upon thousands of houses in Toowoomba’s west as well as the city’s airport and showgrounds.

Meanwhile a company named Civil and Mining Resources Pty Ltd has lodged an application to explore for coal in an area which incorporates the northern half of Toowoomba.

The application covers the entire suburbs of Cotswold Hills, Wilsonton Heights, Harlaxton, Blue Mountain Heights and Murphy’s Creek.

The Queensland Government is yet to decide if that exploration application will be approved, however, it has form in approving similar exploration applications covering residential areas.

It recently approved an application by Coalbank Pty Ltd (now under acquisition by Lodestone Energy) for a coal exploration permit covering Cabarlah and Geham north of Toowoomba.

Coalbank also has an exploration application pending for an area that covers the rapidly growing population centre of Highfields.

Farmland protection advocate Rob McCreath from the Friends of Felton group said it was crazy for the Government to allow mining exploration permits not only on prime agricultural land, but in densely populated areas as well.

Mr McCreath was part of a delegation which met with Queensland mining minister Stirling Hinchliffe in Toowoomba in March.

“He told us he was listening to our concerns and said he would even consider an amendment to the mining legislation to protect densely populated areas,” Mr McCreath said.

“And then not long after that he went back to Brisbane and he approved the permit over Cabarlah and Geham.

“So there is no guarantee he is going to say no to this development over the top half of Toowoomba.”

Mr McCreath said resources companies appeared to be rushing to tie up as much land as possible while the opportunity existed.

“These companies know that, particularly with coal, there is only a certain amount of time before the world will move away from coal.

“And it is the same with gas.

“It is a mad rush.

“From what I read China has the potential to develop its own industry for gas so in future they might not want so much of ours, so there seems to be this short window where they can really cash in.”

Exploration lease applications also cover the Darling Downs townships of Warwick, Pittsworth and Southbrook, while the former rural township of Acland on the Darling Downs is now the site of a massive open cut coal mine operated by New Hope Coal. 



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