A Queensland mayor’s call to ban mining in the Somerset region has been slammed by the Queensland Resources Council (QRC).
Earlier this week Graeme Lehmann, Somerset’s mayor, put forth a moratorium to push for the council to become the first in the state to ban coal mining and coal seam gas.
Lehmann said the move was driven by community fears of the affects the mining boom may have on the region.
"There has been a great deal of concern in the local and broader community about the potential impacts of the proposed coal exploration and potential for coal seam gas mining in the Somerset region," he said.
His comments were slammed by the QRC, which stated that "Queensland’s 4.6 million residents must be wondering what gives Somerset Regional Council the privilege to ‘ban’ coal and coal-seam gas development, while continuing to bank the benefits from royalties and economic activity".
QRC chief Michael Roche said the move is nothing more than ‘pre-election grandstanding’ by Lehmann, and ‘ignored fundamental facts – including the Constitution of Australia.
"The minerals and energy resources under the ground belong to the people of Queensland and we elect state governments to make decisions on the best use of those resources for the benefit of all Queenslanders," Roche said.
"One of those benefits is the payment of royalties to the state government by minerals and energy producers and this year the forecast dividend to every Queenslander is $540.
"We must assume as a result of Somerset Regional Council’s announcement that it has factored in losing its per capita share of state royalties, estimated at $1.2 million this year.
"I am sure there are plenty of other communities who would be more than happy to divvy up Somerset’s share of the royalty pie," he stated.
Roche went on to say that there are more than 150 mining and energy employees working the region, adding that the industry buys around $7 million worth of goods and services from businesses in Somerset.
"I find it difficult to imagine that the 22,500 people in Somerset LGA are happy with the notion that their council wants to forgo that wealth creation in their community," Roche said.
However Lehman told the Queensland Times "there are a lot of people out there calling for the council to be doing more and this is a way we can do that," adding that the region’s future lay in tourism and agriculture.
According to a recent QRC Deloitte Access Economics Growth Outlook Study, if all of the $142 billion worth of resources projects go ahead, then Queensland’s mining royalties may exceed $7 billion annually by 2020.