Thursday, May 25, 2017

Mary Valley faces new coal threat

Posted by Jim on May 18, 2011

An alert Maryborough member has drawn attention to the announcement of a new coal exploration permit in the Mary Valley, 25 kilometres south of Maryborough, east of the Bruce Highway, by Scorpion Energy Pty Ltd. Scorpion Energy was established only 18 months ago and presently only has a one page web presence without any content.

The continued allocation of coal exploration permits in the Mary Valley by the Queensland Government shows scant regard for the environmental values of the Mary Valley – values which the Federal Government endorsed when it refused the Bligh Government’s planned dam at Traveston. This is the sixth exploration permit in the Mary Valley that the Queensland Minister for mining has issued.

The National Party opposed Traveston Dam and supported the environmental arguments against its construction. Why are Warren Truss, the Nationals’ Federal member for Wide Bay and David Gibson, the LNP State member for Gympie, silent on coal mining and coal seam gas, which Tiaro Coal Corporation plans to develop along Munna Creek, which will do vast damage to the ecology of the Mary River and the Mary Valley? Are the Nationals and LNP compromised by their links with the coal industry?

The silence of the Nationals is a true indication of how committed to the environmental values of the Mary Valley they really are.

Bob Brown

Greens leader, Bob Brown, supporting the community in opposing Traveston Dam.

Photo by Arkin Mackay,,
reproduced with permission

Jim McDonald, Wide Bay Greens Spokesperson, 18 May 2011

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Coal, coal seam gas, food production, food security, climate change and population

Posted by Jim on December 20, 2010

The effects of irreversible environmental damage are just one of the factors in the battle against the excesses of the coalmining industry.  Top quality farming land faces devastation by coalmining or CSG extraction and that of course has been the focus of the campaigns against coalmining and its expansion.

To my mind, it is not only the environmental vandalism that is evident in the Hunter Valley, for example, but it is also the absence of Federal and State food security policies that is the most shocking context of this impetus to expand mining and extraction into productive land in the Hunter Valley [agricultural productivity is already decimated], the Liverpool Plains and the Darling Downs.  I am outraged that any Australian Government allows foreign companies owned by foreign governments [Shinghua 67% by PRC] or any mining company to buy up agricultural land for mining and CSG extraction.

I am equally outraged that they allow the sale of top quality agricultural land land to foreign companies owned by foreign governments whose mission statements refer to the food security of the foreign country [Hassad Foods & Qatar].  Australia is allowing foreign governments to purchase Australian land for their food security?  In the absence of a food security policy – let alone a strategy – for Australia!  That is a betrayal of Australia and future generations of Australians.

The campaign against coal needs to shift gears and address the failure of food security planning as a matter of urgency while the Labor Party and the Coalition are failing the nation and its grandchildren.  Indeed I would argue that the campaign against coalmining and coal seam gas should also adopt the discourse of betrayal of our national interest.  Even though there has been much made of the nonsensical proposition of allowing mining of top agricultural land, it might be seen as been a matter of self-interest on the part of farmers by an un-engaged city audience.

The failure of planners to take account of the impact of alienating productive land is a long-standing problem on the verges of urban expansion with the disappearance of large market garden areas around our cities and towns.  It doesn’t only happen in the capitals: it happens in regional cities such as Toowoomba.

The food security policy vacuum is locked into the other two major issues of our time and for the next generation [ie to 2030] and the next [to 2050]: population and climate change.  The population grows as we see the prospect of productive land diminished by Greed, Coal and CSG.  The best agricultural land must be preserved to feed our rapidly growing population, especially in the face of shifting climate characteristics and extended and more severe weather events.  But governments are sitting on their thumbs.

Take the Queensland Government, for example.  It now owns the agricultural land in the upper Mary River Valley while coalminers plan open cut pits along the river’s major tributaries and the river itself.  What does the Bligh Government do about planning food security for South-East Queensland and in particular, what does it do about the land it ill-advisedly purchased for the Traveston Dam?  It has run a food cropping land “inquiry” that does not specifically address food security nor specifically address the best use of the land it now owns and it can’t re-sell to the farmers it pushed off the land.  Is there a panel of agricultural scientists, environmental experts, and the local community nutting out a model plan for food security in the Mary Valley and planning for climate change?  Forget it!

Jim McDonald, Greens Wide Bay Spokesperson, 20/12/10

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Queensland Coal COSTS the Queensland Taxpayer

Posted by Jim on

The 2010-2011 Queensland State Budget projects $2.8 billion in royalties from coalmining [Queensland budget paper 2, 2010] for the current financial year.  But coal infrastructure costs borne by the taxpayer are huge.  The development of the Bowen Abbott Point Coal Terminal alone will cost the Queensland taxpayer $1.8-1.9 billion  [Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Minerals and energy, “Major development projects – April 2010 listing”].

Overall, the Queensland Government has committed over the next three financial years $5.7 billion in coal infrastructure development in terminals and rail – this does not include costs presumably covered by the new owners of sold off State assets [Sourcewatch: ABARE April 2010 major projects list].  In addition the State is committed in 2010-2011 to spend $400 million on power station upgrades.

The cost of coal to the State over three years based on an assumption of an average of $3 billion in coal royalties and taxpayer-funded expenditure on coal: a LOSS of around half a billion dollars.  These estimates do not include the State’s contribution to Coal Seam Gas or coal exploration!

The nett loss to the state Treasury does not include social costs, road maintenance costs, road closure costs, the cost of fractured communities, loss of agricultural productivity, the cost to the health system, the cost of high water usage, the irreversable damage to aquifers and water quality, irreversable landscape damage, the damage to heritage, the effect of coal transportation on the amenity of passenger rail, the lost opportunities to invest in renewable energy resources, the catch-up costs that will be incurred in a post-carbon economy, etc, etc, etc.  And now, ongoing revenue earners – the rail system and the ports – have been sold off for a one-off profit.  Would YOU run a business like that?  Especially when you have accountability to the taxpayers?

Coal is has a toxic effect on the state economy.

Jim McDonald, Greens Spokesperson, Wide Bay Federal Electorate, 20/12/10

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Coal exploration extends into Sunshine Coast

Posted by Jim on October 4, 2010

Coalmining threatens the Sunshine Coast, warned the Greens spokesperson for Wide Bay, Jim McDonald.

He said that Tiaro Coal Limited had already conducted aerial surveys in the Wolvi region, and recently reported to the Stock Exchange that it would soon commence exploration drilling in the district. It can do this under a coal exploration permit EPC967 issued by the Queensland Department of Environment and Resource Planning.

Countryside near Wolvi [Photo, Jim McDonald]

The Greens raised coalmining along the Mary Valley as a major issue in the Wide Bay electorate during the recent federal election, and supported the Aldershot community near Maryborough in its fight against an open-cut coalmine just a couple of kilometres from their town.

“The Mary River is threatened by the strong possibility of open cut mines being dug from Munna Creek, one of its major tributaries in the Mary Valley, to Maryborough. That will have devastating effects on the ecology of the river, which is home to rare and threatened species, and on the internationally listed Great Sandy Wetlands, a sea grass environment that supports dugong, dolphins, prawns and fisheries.

“Now, the Sunshine Coast faces the intrusion of coalmining activity near the Noosa River catchment area. Coalmining has no place in coastal regions or where there is top quality farming land in Queensland.

Dr McDonald called upon the LNP spokesperson on the environment, Glen Elmes, and the Member for Wide Bay, Warren Truss, to reject open cut mining along the Mary River, the Cooloola Coast and the Sunshine Coast.

He said he doubted that they would do so, because the Nationals support coalmining in the region. “They certainly didn’t oppose the Colton Coal Mine during the Federal election.

“The Greens will fight the introduction of coalmines into our region.”

Jim McDonald, Greens Spokesperson, Wide Bay Federal Electorate, Media Release, 4 October 2010
Coverage: Sunshine Coast Daily 5/10/10; Gympie Times 6/10/10; Noosa News 8/10/10

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DERM rejects coalmine’s Environmental Management Plan – Congratulations to Aldershot Community

Posted by Jim on September 30, 2010

The Queensland Department of Environment and Resource Management [DERM] has rejected an application for an open-cut coal mine a mere 2-3 kilometres from the township of Aldershot and just outside the Maryborough City Boundary.  A DERM spokesperson is reported to have said that the main grounds for rejection of Northern Energy Corporation’s application and Environmental Management Plan were soil characteristics, groundwater and potential impacts to waterways.

This represents a major win for the Aldershot community, which has campaigned long and hard against the mine.

We congratulate the Aldershot community in its steadfast and savvy campaign against the Colton Coal Mine, an open cut mine that was to be dug on the community’s doorstep.

Without Aldershot and District against Mining’s [AADAM] campaign, Northern Energy Corporation’s plans for an extensive mine outside Aldershot and Maryborough might have slipped under the radar and been approved by the State Government.

They did not go it alone, though, and the Wide Bay Conservation Council is also to be congratulated in standing shoulder to shoulder with the community.

The same cannot be said for local politicians, none of whom openly opposed the mine, with the exception of a single Fraser Coast Regional Councillor. The only party that consistently fought against the mine on public health and environmental grounds was The Greens.

The coalmining issue in our region is not dead, however, and The Greens have already responded to the Tiaro Coal proposals to establish open-cut mines in the Munna Creek area in the Gympie Times.

The whole question of mines along the Mary River and its basin needs to be re-evaluated by the Bligh Labor Government before any more of the mining companies seek to exploit the Maryborough Coal Basin.

Jim McDonald, Greens Spokesperson, Wide Bay Federal Electorate, 30 September 2010

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Coal cartel will ruin the future of Queensland’s rail system

Posted by Jim on August 12, 2010

The Queensland Government’s proposed sale of Queensland’s railways to the coal industry will be the death knell for passenger rail services in regional Queensland, says Jim McDonald, the Greens’ candidate for Wide Bay.

“High speed rail for both freight and passenger services should be an essential element in State Government climate change and population planning. A coal cartel will ruin the future of our rail system if Anna Bligh and Andrew Fraser get their way.

“The Brisbane – Cairns route needs a rapid rail system as much as the Melbourne – Brisbane corridor, especially for the Sunshine Coast and Wide Bay, to service a rapidly growing population and take trucks and passengers off the Bruce Highway.

“Federal and State Governments need to take serious steps to develop a standard gauge system in Queensland that will deliver frequent, rapid passenger and freight services to Maryborough, Gympie and the Sunshine Coast. Queensland lags the rest of the world in efficient rail transport because of the limitations of its narrow gauge rail system.

“The State Government should investigate selling off part of the rail easements to private interests to fund modernisation of the rail services that belong to the Queensland taxpayer. Instead, under Ms Bligh’s and Mr Fraser’s plan, passenger timetables will be affected by the coal industry’s priorities.

“The Government’s focus should be on fast rail, which will be an economic boon to the region in a low carbon future. A fast train plan could provide hundreds of jobs in Maryborough and Gympie if the State Government had a commitment to regional development and ensured that the rolling stock continued to be manufactured in Maryborough, instead of exporting the industry to China.

“High speed access to South-East Queensland markets will do as much to stimulate local industries and small business as the National Broadband Network.”

Dr McDonald said that the Federal Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government, Anthony Albanese should include South-East Queensland and EDI Rail in the feasibility study for high speed rail.

“This is what the Greens mean by green jobs. Rail will always be more efficient and less polluting than motor vehicles. And it would provide jobs in the region. We need to think beyond existing frameworks. A high speed rail system would form a significant component of a low carbon economy in the region.”

Jim McDonald, Media Release, 12 August 2010

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Greens Queensland campaign launch – a photo report

Posted by Jim on July 26, 2010

I attended the Queensland launch of the Greens campaign in a crowded function room at The Summit Restaurant at Mt Coot-tha on Sunday with Campaign Manager Bob Borsellino.  The Green’s candidate for Ryan, Sandra Bayley, also welcomed supporters and members.  She was followed by the Green’s Senate lead candidate Larissa Waters.

Crowd building up at Greens Queensland campaign launch

The launch was welcomed to country by elder, Maroochy, who performed a stunning welcome song.

Maroochy explaining the significance of her welcome song

Bob Brown electrified the room by addressing the issues of the campaign and outlining the contribution to government made by the Greens in the life of the last Parliament.  In a nice reference to the leaders debate, which locked out the Leader of the Greens, he said that in the case of the Labor and Liberal leaders, “three’s a crowd”.  He illustrated the failure of Labor’s environmental policy by referring to Julia Gillard’s summit on the environment as a phonebook strategy towards climate change.

Senator Bob Brown addressing the Launch crowd

He was upbeat about the chances of having Larissa Waters elected as the first Greens Senator from Queensland.  Later I met Bob Brown briefly after his media conference and we talked about coalmines.

Meeting Bob Brown after the launch of the Greens campaign in Queensland

All the candidates present were introduced to the audience and afterwards we posed for a group photo with Larissa Waters and Bob Brown.

Queensland House of Representative candidates pose with Bob Brown and Larissa Waters

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River Threat

Posted by Jim on July 21, 2010

I refer to your article, “Still fighting for Mary River” [Gympie Times, 17 July 2010], which refers to State Government plans to harvest water from the river.

The Mary River also faces major threats from coal mines at Munna Creek and along the river near Tiaro. Closer to the mouth of the Mary, the estuary faces the risks of pollution from a coal mine planned along the Susan River that flows into the Mary River estuary.

What the Mary River needs is a concerted clean-up of water quality. Instead we see more talk of measures that will further degrade the river.

I have written to the federal Environment Minister to intervene in the Colton Coal Mine proposed near the Susan River, but with the timing of the Federal election we fear that the State Government and the miners will proceed with approvals that will change the ecology of the Mary River forever.

Jim McDonald
Greens Candidate
Wide Bay Electorate

Published in Gympie Times, 21 July 2010

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More reasons why coalmines and towns don’t mix

Posted by Jim on July 13, 2010

A NSW State Government report on air quality, noise levels and drinking water issues has found that coal mines near Camberwell in the Hunter Valley, NSW, have been exposing locals to an excessive level of dust.

The study found daily dust concentrations exceeded standards during 2008 between 10 and 30 days at different monitoring stations in and near Camberwell.  Noise levels were close to exceeding acceptable levels, and the report found they could rise further if the mines were expanded.  However, the research revealed there is no evidence of high lead levels in drinking water in rainwater tanks.

One of the coal mines is further from Camberwell than the Colton Coal Mine will be from Aldershot and, like the reserves near Aldershot, are metallurgical coal deposits.

Jim McDonald, 13 July 2010
iPrime Newcastle; Camberwell Metallurgical Coal Mine

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FIRB allows companies owned by foreign governments to buy up farmland

Posted by Jim on May 15, 2010

The Greens candidate for Wide Bay, Dr Jim McDonald, has raised concerns about Foreign Investment Review Board approvals for the purchase of agricultural land by corporations with substantial foreign government ownership.

I want to know whether land in the Wide Bay and Burnett region is been sold off to overseas companies owned by foreign governments.

The Greens’ policy on agriculture calls for the protection of prime agricultural land from urban developments and other encroachments. I would add to that the specific protection of the sovereignty of agricultural lands.

These principles are under attack by FIRB approvals of agricultural land purchases by corporations substantially owned by foreign governments.

The question of foreign investment in Australian resources and industry is one thing. It is quite a different issue when foreign governments are involved.

WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

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