Bass Coast against mining


Bass Coast against mining

Battle against the big companies: community members against coal seam gas exploration and mining attended Bass Coast Shire Council’s briefing session last Wednesday and were supported by Councillors Phil Wright, Jane Daley, Veronica Dowman and Peter Paul.

BASS Coast Shire councillors are planning a staunch fight against mining companies wanting to explore and mine for coal seam gas in the region.
They hope to make the battle a state-wide affair, with a better outcome than the recent desal debacle when community outrage was not enough to stop the development from going ahead in Wonthaggi.
Councillors present at the council briefing session last Wednesday supported community concern after Queensland based mining company, Leichhardt Resources Pty Ltd, applied for an exploration licence covering 519 square kilometres along the coast from Wonthaggi to Waratah Bay, and inland to Buffalo.
Cr Ross Smith said he believed councillors should be “making noise” about mining in the Bass Coast and surrounding shires as soon as possible.
“We made noise about desal, but not enough,” he said.
“This has the potential to be an explosive issue and we should invite local politicians to get involved; something has to be done for this to take off.”
Cr Smith said for the moment council did not need “cast iron reasons” to start a campaign against mining companies, as it was an issue the community was already “up in arms” about.
Council CEO Alan Bawden sees coal seam gas as an emerging issue in the community, and an agreement with the Department of Primary Industries meant council had been notified of the application well in advance.
With the majority of South Gippsland and Bass Coast already covered in exploration and mining licences, Mr Bawden said he assumed this particular application had been taken out over an expired licence.
“The company have stated they intend to explore for coal methane and black or brown coal,” he said.
“I think we know there is coal throughout most of that area.”
Councillors said they would speak with other councils who have successfully deterred mining companies from seeking licences in their regions, such as the Colac Otway Shire Council.
Sarah Myhill from Kilcunda, who sat in the gallery along with a number of other concerned community members, said farmers from Leongatha, Korumburra and as far as Warragul were “just as concerned” about miners coming onto their land and the environmental damage that could potentially occur.
“Rather than isolate Bass Coast, we should make it a state-wide issue,” she said, suggesting council invite South Gippsland, Casey and Baw Baw shire councils to join the fight.
“We need to support our farmers and landowners and say we don’t want this in our backyard, and not in anyone else’s.”
Ms Myhill said “power of the people” had the ability to change legislation, and attendance of up to 200 people at recent community forums proved the cause had support.
Although only four of the seven councillors were present at the meeting, Cr Veronica Dowman said she was confident the community’s position was supported by all councillors.
It is unknown however, whether they will have the support of South Gippsland Shire Council.
Mayor Cr Warren Raabe said South Gippsland Shire Council had only first discussed the issue last week, but had not taken action because they had not been approached by any community members about the issue.
“It was the first I had heard of it and saw where it was occurring, and I recognise a large part of the potential mining exploration area is in South Gippsland,” he said.
“We have not been approached by anybody at this stage to do anything, and have not been approached by the mining company.”
Cr Raabe said he was aware of exploration licences granted and test drilling done in Korumburra in previous years, but for the moment they were waiting for the application to be advertised.
“Council’s position is that we haven’t been approached, and it’s not really in council’s domain or sphere of influence,” he said.
“We would need to carefully consider whether or not we become involved in the process.”
Cr Raabe however, acknowledged there was genuine concern surrounding coal seam gas exploration and mining, but questioned council’s ability to have any effect on state legislation.
“I can understand their concern, and people power can achieve change, but again, is that something the council could influence?”
Bass Coast Shire Council will discuss the matter further at their next meeting on Wednesday, March 21.
Gippsland South MLA Peter Ryan said there are already strict laws in place in Victoria regarding mining to protect landowners.
“Any exploration undertaken in the local region will need to comply with strict regulation under Victoria’s Mineral Resources (Sustainable Development) Act 1990,” he said.
“This includes an obligation on exploration applicants to respect the rights of landholders and address community concerns.”
Mr Ryan said although companies apply for and are granted licences, it does not necessarily mean mining will occur in Bass Coast and South Gippsland.
“It is very early days for exploration in this area and the provision of an exploration licence does not guarantee future activities,” he said.
“There is currently no production of coal seam gas in Victoria.”
The required advertisement regarding Exploration Licence 5416 can be found in this week’s Star; community members now have the next 21 days to send any submissions or objections to the DPI.

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Posted by on Mar 15 2012. Filed under Featured, News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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