A water management consultant has warned that proposed changes to legislation in Queensland will give mining and resource companies an unlimited right to take water without a license, and will give landholders no rights to appeal against the water take.
Queensland minister for state sevelopment Natural Resources and Mines Anthony Lynham and Minister for Main Roads, Road Safety, Ports, Energy and Water Supply Mark Bailey announced new water reforms yesterday, which they said are designed to protect the Great Barrier Reef and rural landholders’ water supply.
Mr Bailey said the proposed changes will now require all resource companies to assess and manage groundwater impacts, and to “make good” any impact on groundwater resources, including springs and water supply bores.
At the moment these requirements apply only to the petroleum and gas mining industries.
Under the proposed changes, Mr Bailey said mines will need to assess groundwater impacts in detail and undertake ongoing assessments to monitor and report on any effects. They will also have a statutory obligation to make good any impacts on surrounding landholders’ water bores.
Mr Bailey said the proposed arrangements would ensure the impacts of mining on water supplies are managed, and will provide protection to landholders potentially impacted by mining activities.
“Our commitment was not to allow laws to proceed that would have a detrimental effect on the Great Barrier Reef catchment systems and or allow for over-allocation of Queensland’s precious water resources.
“That’s exactly what’s happening. Our changes are a big plus for sustainable water resource management, landholder protection and Reef protection.”
Mr Bailey said Dr Lynham would also introduce legislation before the end of 2015 to restore the principles of ecologically sustainable development into the Water Act and remove the LNP’s proposed water development options and designated watercourses that would over-allocate precious water supplies.
“I personally believe we should be strongly fighting this”
However, Tom Crothers, director of water planning, management and entitlement consultancy Stellar Advisory Services, says the Queensland Government’s plans will grant statutory rights for the take of underground water to miners, and are “a serious concern”.
“These changes which are set to go through in the proclamation of amendments to the Water Reform and Other Legislation Amendment Act and the Mineral Resources Act, will give resources and coal mining companies the right to extract huge amounts of associated groundwater for their operations.
“I personally believe we should be strongly fighting this.
“Mining and Petroleum and Gas operations should be on a level platform with other users of water such as irrigation farmers and light industry, accessing water should be a privilege not an automatic right.”
Mr Crothers said one of the only positives in the proposed legislation was that is that the mining companies would be required to report to government how much water they extract.
“Coal Seam Gas (CSG) companies who under their environmental authorities, are already able to extract water without a water license, currently have to report how much they take and miners should be required to record and report how much underground water they extract.”
Mr Crothers will outline his concerns at the Basin Sustainability Alliance’s ‘CSG Hot Topics’ event to be held in Dalby on 13th October 2015. Other speakers include Peter Shannon, Rory Ross and Lachlan Brimblecomble of Shine Lawyers.