AN agricultural advocate opposed to mining and gas exploration in the South East has labelled the Mining Act review consultation process a “complete sham”.
Anne Daw has accused Mineral Resources Minister Tom Koutsantonis of disregarding farmers and rural communities by rushing the Statutes Amendment (Leading Practice in Mining) Bill 2017 through parliament before completing community consultation.
The Bill is the first of many proposed amendments to overhaul mining legislation, which is the most comprehensive review in 45 years.
Ms Daw has spoken out ahead of tonight’s State Government information session in Mount Gambier on the mining act review.
“The community consultation sessions are far from completed and yet the minister chose to rush the Bill through the House of Assembly,” Ms Daw said.
“This shows total disregard by the minister for farmers and rural communities – his actions are irresponsible and appalling.
“The whole of the consultation process is a sham and should be reviewed prior to any further passage of the Bill.”
Ms Daw claimed the Mining Act review document was “inadequate” and failed to address a number of concerns raised by landowners.
“The document appears to be watered down with changes in certain language favouring the mining industry,” she said.
“There is no mention of limestone issues, faults or seawater intrusion – these omissions show how inadequate these so-called reforms are.
“Most landholders and farmers want to be able to get on with their lives, without interruptions from unwanted and unwelcome mining industries that may negatively impact them in a number of ways, including contamination of water, devaluation of their properties and interruption of normal farming operations.”
Grant District Deputy Mayor and Mount Schank grazier Brian Collins echoed similar sentiments, having had mining exploration companies disrupt his land on two occasions.
“The first time was in the late ’80s or early ’90s and then a second mining company swept through in 2008 and 2009,” Mr Collins said.
“Our land isn’t protected or exempt, so we really had no say in the matter – they cut down fences and started driving the trucks through.
“They paid to have the fences replaced after they left, but we were really at their mercy and it was both disruptive and inconvenient.”
Mr Collins said he feared proposed amendments to the Mining Act would weaken farmers’ rights.
“At the time we were told we would be fighting a losing battle if we wanted to oppose the mining companies’ plans,” he said.
“I worry that if these changes go ahead, farmers and landowners will have even less power to protect their property.”
South East dairy farmer David Black said he too harboured concerns proposed changes to the act would favour the mining industry to the detriment of the farming sector.
“My main concern is these changes will make it easier for petroleum and resource companies to access our prime agricultural land,” Mr Black said.
“A provision restricting mining operations within 400m of buildings, springs, wells and reservoirs could be changed and will not extend to aquifers.
“The bore water system for our home is only three metres underground – we live in the driest state on the driest continent and the provisions need to be strengthened to protect vital resources.”
Ms Daw agreed all mining activities should be banned where there is groundwater dependency.
“Between the altered landscapes, noise pollution, inconvenient transport corridors, diesel fumes and the threat of contamination of our most precious commodity, mining should never be allowed near high-yielding food bowls,” she said.
“I will never, ever give up until our prime agricultural and most valuable cropping land is afforded proper protection.”
Tonight’s information session will be held at the Mount Gambier Community RSL between 6pm and 7.30pm.