SOIL OR COAL: Rare, prime agricultural land is being considered as the next location for an open cut coal mine.
SOIL OR COAL: Rare, prime agricultural land is being considered as the next location for an open cut coal mine. Contributed

Farming families face new threat to water supply

FARMING families of the Goomburra valley face an uncertain future as the harrowing prospect of open cut coal mining threatens their land and their livelihoods.

A quarterly ASX report by Kaili Resources revealed their subsidiary APEC Coal has a "view to expanding the current resource base" to include exploration of open cut coal mining and in situ gasification.

Southern Downs residents were shocked and angry to discover the proposal online, according to a spokeswoman for environmental protection group, Guardians of Goomburra.

"Exploring coal on prime agricultural land in an area that's quite densely populated makes no sense whatsoever," she said.

"I just think it will be catastrophic."

The spokeswoman said the expansion could threaten their clean water supply, as many residents relied on roof water tanks.

"They would become contaminated by the by-products of mining," she said.

"Farming communities would be forced to leave."

Founder of the Southern Downs Protection Group Marianne Irvine said farming land in the Goomburra valley was incompatible with open cut mining.

"The biggest threat is what this poses to a prime agricultural area," she said.

"There are dairy farmers, horse properties, cattle properties and properties that grow food, and they would not do particularly well with a lot of coal dust."

The mining exploration area, 86 square kilometres in size, stretches from the New England Highway near Maryvale to the border of Allora.

Mrs Irvine said such a development would affect residential areas in Allora, Mount Marshall and Maryvale.

"I think it's incredibly inappropriate for the area to be as close to rural and suburban living as it is," she said.

"Indirectly it will affect the whole region."

The Guardians of Goomburra said they'd had several meetings with experts to discuss the potential impact on underground water supplies.

Similar mining projects in the Hunter Valley were reported as "very likely" to create a drawdown in groundwater levels of at least five metres and affect more than 1000 kilometres of surface water streams, according to the Hunter bioregional assessment.

Mrs Irvine said the community was concerned by the thought of the region becoming the next Hunter Valley.

"It's just horrendous with all these great big holes in the ground," she said.

"Can you imagine that right beside the New England Highway?

"It would be a blot on the landscape of the most monumental proportions."

The addition of a coal mine could have a major impact on water consumption, with about 250 litres of fresh water required per tonne of coal produced, in addition to further draws on recycled water.

"Coal mining is water-hungry and water is something our area can't spare, especially at the moment," Mrs Irvine said.

"The whole issue of water is indelibly linked to something like this and we can't afford to waste it any more."

With the future of their land, water and air quality at stake, Goomburra residents fear for their future.

"It's the lack of certainty that bothers us," a spokeswoman for Guardians of Goomburra said.

"It is impacting our community and questioning the future of our farms."

To combat the threat of mine development, both GOG and SDPG recommend residents lock their gates and refuse entry to mining companies.

"It's a gutsy move to say, 'No, you can't come in'," Mrs Irvine said.

"But I know people who have kept exploration off their property for years and it is as simple as saying no."

GOG said residents' right to refusal was questionable but could delay the exploration by weeks, or even months, as mining companies moved through the legal paperwork required to gain access.

The EPC1506 mining lease is up for renewal in May 2020 and GOG are planning a community meeting to discuss their next steps.

For more information and updates as they occur visit www.facebook.com/guardiansofgoomburra/