The Somerset Council has passed a moratorium on all exploration, mining, and coal seam gas activities in the Queensland region.
Graeme Lehmann, Somerset’s mayor, said this move has made it the first in the state to ban coal mining and coal seam gas activity.
Lehmann said he 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.
"There is so much uncertainty around the long-term environmental and health impacts of CSG mining.
"It’s just not worth the risk"
It also stated that it would provide support for landholders who were threatened by CSG work on their property.
However, the move has been labelled ‘grandstanding’ by the Queensland Resources Council (QRC).
Lehmann’s announcement was 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.
Queensland premier Anna Bligh also voiced her bewilderment over the council’s ban.
The Sydney Morning Herald reported that she was "mystified" by the announcement.
"Firstly they have no power to do it and secondly it’s already been done by the state government," she said, referring to an earlier issuing of an exclusions zone across the south east of the state halting coal seam gas exploration.
"So either they’ve been completely unaware of this, which is, of course, completely impossible because they were actively consulted."
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.
Despite his statements, the moratorium would still need the state government’s approval before it could be enforced.