Prime farm land a soft option

MINING companies are targeting agricultural land in a deliberate bid to reduce costs, federal MP Scott Buchholz says.

The Member for Wright made the comments while debating a bill before the parliament to establish an independent scientific committee to inform the decision-making process around CSG and large coalmining developments.

The bill was passed in the lower house on Tuesday night and now goes to the Senate.

Mr Buchholz said mining companies were "picking the low-lying fruit" in targeting farming land for exploration and drilling.

"You can see this if you juxtapose two positions," he said.

"If the mining companies were going into country west of my electorate where it is heavily timbered, there would be the cost of clearing that vegetation and the cost of machinery and fuel to get into those sorts of remote areas.

"As well as the cost of clearing virgin scrub, there would be the time delays imposed by the State Government - the green tape - and there would be the cost of pushing in access roads and of running in power, which I assume would all be part of the due diligence process.

"On the other hand, iconic farming land is mostly flat, with very easy access, normally by bitumen roads. It is always cleared of vegetation and it is mostly in close proximity to power used in irrigation.

"So, when making an argument about compensation, if the costs associated with extraction of coal seam gas in less favourable areas were to be amortised across the operation, those compensation costs should be shared with the farmer."

In supporting the bill, Mr Buchholz said the "committee is a positive step forwards in improving public confidence in the environmental integrity of the industry".



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