Farmers could resort to civil disobedience in order to stop Watermark coal mine

Farmers living near the Liverpool Plains have threatened legal action and civil disobedience in order to stop the construction of Shenhua’s Watermark coal mine.

The $1.2 billion open-cut coal project, located near the Liverpool Plains, plans to produce 10 million tonnes of coal per annum for 30 years, and has come under intense scrutiny from some local farmers in the region who are concerned over water and agricultural impacts.

Environment Minister Greg Hunt said the project had been approved subject to 18 of the most strict conditions in Australian history.

But some locals in the region are not convinced, vowing to fight the project’s development.

Farmer and Caroona Coal Action Group spokesman Tim Duddy has labelled the project as "agricultural genocide", ABC reported.

Duddy is concerned the water modelling of the mining project does not add up, and threatens the future of farming in the region.

"We are not talking about a coexistence model, we are talking about mining coming and farming going and it's as simple as that," Duddy said.

"It's not just that coal is in one area that's confined and the soil is in another.

"The whole thing is like a big club sandwich — where you have the soil on top, you have the inter-layers of coal and water and clays and all sorts of other things in that geology.

"If you take any one aspect of that out and you interfere with that balance, where you allow the good water to drain into the bad water then agriculture here is finished."

Farmers are now looking at what options are available to stop Watermark.

"We're looking at our legal options, we're looking at our other options, certainly the community is prepared to do whatever it takes to ensure a mine does not occur here," Duddy said.

Farmer Andrew Pursehouse owns more than 4,000 hectares of agricultural land on the Liverpool Plains and says civil disobedience could be an option.

"This community is galvanised to stop whatever happens and it could lead to some pretty nasty stuff," Pursehouse said.

Farmers have the backing of the NSW Farmers Federation which on Tuesday passed a motion at its conference in Sydney asking the State Government to halt the mine.

The NSW government is tasked with deciding whether to grant Shenhua a mining lease.

However, Premier Mike Baird, who attended the conference, told the audience the mine poses no threat to the livelihood of farmers.

"There is no evidence that the Shenhua coal mine will damage the water resource on the Liverpool Plains," Baird said.

Baird said he must follow the scientific evidence when deciding whether or not to grant Shenhua its mining lease.

"The science has come back and it says the impacts aren't there, and there's a range of protection measures that have been put in place," Baird said.

"Now it hasn't proceeded yet, there's no licences come in, but ultimately I'm in a position where I have to rely on the expert advice and that's what I'm going to do."

Earlier this week a spokesperson for NSW Resources Minister Anthony Roberts said approval of the mining lease was a “relative formality”.

“The project already has planning approval in NSW, and environmental approval by the Commonwealth was the last major hurdle,” the minister’s spokesman said.

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