Farmers up in arms over mining in Queensland

Farmers in southwest Queensland are preparing to do battle with miners keen to explore their land for gas and coal.

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A decision on Sunday by the BG Group to commit $15 billion to a liquefied natural gas plant at Gladstone is expected to spark a “gas rush” in the Surat Basin, west of Brisbane.

The BG proposal includes a 450km underground pipeline network and expanding production in gas fields in the Surat Basin around Chinchilla.

Lee McNicholl, who farms cattle and grain to the west at Dulacca, doesn’t want a bar of it.

“There’s no sound science to underpin most of the provisions that the government has approved for BG,” Mr McNicholl said.

“There are just a whole lot of unknown unknowns, and the government’s adopted the attitude that if there’s a major stuff-up, well, we’ll fix it up when it happens.

“That’s totally unacceptable.”

Mr McNicholl said he would lock the farm gates against explorers and many farmers shared his sentiments.

“I’m gearing up to fight, I’ve had a gutful,” he said.

Local farmers were on Tuesday organising resistance to the miners as the pace of exploration heats up.

“I haven’t had any trouble yet, but I know it’s only a matter of time,” Mr McNicholl said.

He said land values had already plummeted as mining was given precedence over agriculture.

“There’s a real reluctance of people to invest in agriculture in Queensland, particularly in the Surat Basin, at the moment,” he said.

“In Queensland, agriculture is being relegated to a very poor second to mining.

“All the security is being given to the mining industry, and no security is being given to agriculture.”

He said recent auctions of farmland had received no bids, while others had sold at well below expectations.

“There’s country out from Wandoan just next to a mine, normally $1250 (an acre), back to $1100.”

An estimated 40,000 coal seam gas wells will be drilled in the Surat Basin, Friends of the Earth estimates.

The Queensland government has announced a series of community information sessions to explain how the new Land Access Code relates to conduct and compensation, dispute resolution and contract compliance between landowners and resource companies.

Information sessions will be held in Dalby, Roma, Quilpie, Longreach, Emerald, Moranbah, Townsville, Mount Isa and Mareeba from November 15 to 26.

“The new laws will ensure landholders have greater certainty about their rights when approached about access to their land by petroleum, gas, geothermal or greenhouse gas companies,” Acting Mines and Energy Minister Geoff Wilson said.

“They also ensure landholders will be fairly compensated for the impact of activities undertaken by resource companies on their land, and that companies must take steps to minimise impacts on the existing land use and business operations.”