IMPACT: Mining chief Michael Roche.
IMPACT: Mining chief Michael Roche.

Conservationists and miners work together on Mary River

CONSERVATIONISTS and the mining industry have found common ground on two major Mary River coal-mining proposals.

They agree that new federal environment powers to protect water resources will impede two potentially major coal mine projects to Gympie's north.

Whether this is a good or a bad thing remains the major area of disagreement.

The Wide Bay Burnett Environment Council yesterday welcomed the new powers, carried through Federal Parliament by the Australian Greens, with the help of Independent Tony Windsor.

They took the form of amendments extending federal powers under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

On the miners' side, the Queensland Resources Council blasted the change, saying it was "another unnecessary disincentive to investment".

New water powers which seem certain to impede the development of two Mary Basin coal mine projects passed through the Senate this week.

They are the Tiaro Coal project near Gundiah and the Colton mine near Maryborough.

The mining industry blasted the new powers, calling them "the latest meddling with the resource development approvals process".

Queensland Resources Council chief executive Michael Roche feared "significant impact".

And significant impact is exactly what the Wide Bay Burnett Environment Council said it was hoping to achieve.

The council's environment co-ordinator Emma-Kate Currie said both proposals would have to convince the Federal Environment Minister they could protect local groundwater aquifers and the Mary River from significant impact.

And president Roger Currie said they would probably not be able to.

The Australian Greens said only their votes and that of Tony Windsor had secured federal powers over the water impacts of coal seam gas and large coal mines.

"The water trigger is an achievement of this minority government only made possible by the Greens working with Tony Windsor," the party's Queensland senator and environment spokeswoman Larissa Waters said.

"The water trigger would not exist today if not for the minority water trigger," she said, describing the change as something "the community has long been calling for".

Mr Roche said the industry's focus would now be on "minimising harm ... through, for example, the 'significant impact' guidelines".



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