Independent study into coal dust problem at Jondaryan

A visit to homes in the mining town of Jondaryan has prompted Mayor Paul Antonio to launch a "fiercely independent" study into the cause and affects of coal dust to local residents.

"It is obvious that there is a dust issue there," Antonio said.

Residents have long been concerned with coal dust contamination and say New Hope Group’s coal facility, located 1.5km from the town, is polluting air and water supplies.

The Oakey Coal Action Alliance has campaigned for two years for restrictions to be placed on New Hope Coal's coal stockpile, The Chronicle reported.

Cr John Gouldson said that the inquiry must be totally free of commercial interests to be taken seriously.

"Just like we don't want to be in the pocket of the company, we don't want to be in the pocket of the Oakey Coal Action Alliance," he said.

While alliance member Dr Reg Pascoe said any non-partisan study would be in his group's favour.

He conceded that a fraction of the dust may come from an existing nearby waste facility, but claimed the main source is related to New Hope's activities.

"It is hard to confuse it for the black substance on buildings in Jondaryan, which was never there before the mine," he said.

"We fully support the mayor's attempt to get to the bottom of it… but everyone needs to play their cards above the table.

"(New Hope) wants to extend its mine further and there are millions of dollars on the line."

A New Hope spokesman said the company welcomed the study.

"Our dust monitoring equipment is some of the most highly sensitive and sophisticated in the country," he said.

"New Hope has also proactively initiated veneering and profiling of coal train wagon loads from the Jondaryan rail loading facility.

"Both of these measures were put in place by the company above and beyond what has been required and are an example of how serious we are about working together with the community.

"As part of the revised New Acland Coal Mine Stage 3 Project plan, New Hope has also undertaken to relocate the rail loading facility to a site eight kilometres away from the town of Jondaryan."

In a statement earlier this year, QLD Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney said the Government had “scaled down” initial plans proposed by New Hope in 2007.

 “The revised expansion of the existing New Acland open-cut coal mine will significantly reduce its impact on agricultural land and local communities,” he said.

 “It differs from the original proposal in that mining over the town of Acland is no longer proposed, Lagoon Creek would not be diverted, the Jondaryan rail load-out facility would be moved eight kilometres from the town, and mining would move 10 kilometres from Oakey.”

The modified proposal is 2,300 hectares smaller than the original plan, and the consultation period for the expansion was extended to allow the community time to scrutinise the proposal.

Tensions surrounding the affects of mining have been long fought in the town.

 Last year, two protestors were arrested after they entered the site at Jondaryan in protest of the facility’s close proximity to the town.

"We'll keep on fighting this issue (at Jondaryan) because we feel the coal dump is inappropriately located," a spokeswoman for the protest group said at the time.

Doris Lander, a Jondaryan resident for over 30 years said coal dust from the facility got on ‘everything,’ while residents have written to us here at Australian Mining saying they are forced to keep windows and doors shut due to the dust from the coal pile.

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