QRC boss discusses mining concerns with farmers

Farmers in Queensland’s Central Highlands have met with the state’s leading industry body to discuss their concerns for their land in light of the mining boom.

Chief executive of the Queensland Resources Council (QRC), Michael Roche has spent the last two days touring the properties in the Golden Triangle, south of Emerald, the Central Queensland News reports.

Roche said the meetings were “long overdue steps to engage with concerned farmers in person,” and that he wanted to hear from farmers about the recently announced draft criteria for the Strategic Cropping Land, which stipulates that terrain deemed to be the best quality for cropping in the state will be protected from mining.

He attended a “casual lunch” on Arcturus Downs to discuss the concerns of landowners with 12 families affected by mining on or near their properties.

Two major coal permits controlled by Bandanna Energy cover a large portion of the Golden Triangle cropping land and residents are concerned about their land and livelihood.

“I met a number of people whose property overlaps the exploration areas,” Roche told the paper.

“Basically we wanted to sit down and get a better understanding of their farm and their concerns with the project – how they feel it might impact them.

“At the same time, the company is trying to get on with developing the projects.

"They see a market opportunity to sell coal to our coal-hungry overseas customers.

"So I think for both sides the sooner a resolution the better.”

Roche labelled the trip a learning curve and said he wanted to gain better understanding of the difficulties faced by landowners, while building trust and establishing a dialogue.

“Both mining companies and farmers are equally uncertain of how this is going to pan out,” Mr Roche said.

“From a QRC perspective, we want to ensure that any policy is based on good science.”

“It is important to determine whether a project sitting on the trigger maps is actually sitting on the best of the best cropping land.”

Roche admitted that the information given to the QRC indicates more scientific study needs to be performed on regenerating the best cropping land after digging and said the council is performing its own tests that it will provide to the government.

Queensland Future Flood’s Charlie Wilson also toured the area with Roche and he believes mining companies should do the same.

“We challenged the mining industry at the State of the Industry Forum to come out here and see where farmers were coming from,” he said.

“We wanted them to learn and be responsive to our concerns.

“To have the calibre of Michael come out is a success, and I think he came away with a better understanding of where we are coming from.

“It is a terrible time for many of us because we are very unsure about the future.”

Landowners wanted Roche to sign a code of conduct that major mining companies would have to abide by when dealing with landowners, according to Wilson.

Roche admitted some mining companies could deal better with the communities they impact.

“Some are very good with community relationships and don’t need to be told what to do by some new law or regulation.

“But I accept that my industry gets judged by the worst performer, so we need to lift the standard across the board in terms of dialogue, respect and being prepared to sit down and understand how a mining or gas project might impact a farmer’s business,” he said.

Roche said the QRC wants more work done on the eight SCL draft criteria, and expressed concern for $22 billion worth of projects that stand to be affected under the current model.

“Some of these projects have spent hundreds of millions of dollars,” he said.

“We have asked the government to consider the projects that have already made substantial investments operate under different rules.

“They need to take into account that they are changing the rules mid-stream.”

Image: The ABC

To keep up to date with Australian Mining, subscribe to our free email newsletters delivered straight to your inbox. Click here.