South Australian farmers on the Eyre Peninsula have indicated their scepticism about the possibility of co-existence between mining and agricultural activities.
A recent Fairfax Agricultural Research and Marketing survey showed that the majority of farmers of were concerned that the new mining boom on the Eyre Peninsula will have devastating effects on groundwater and cause degradation of agricultural land.
Survey participants were randomly selected from the Yorke Peninsula, Eyre Peninsula and South-East region of the state.
73 per cent of respondents said that a damaged or depleted water table was the highest risk to agriculture posed by mining activities.
Water concerns were followed by land degradation, toxic emissions, and lack of effective remediation.
Hydraulic fracturing raised the most extreme concern, as 60 per cent of respondents believed that unconventional gas extraction could not co-exist with farming enterprises.
Overwhelmingly, 88 per cent of those who participated said they believed the South Australian Government favoured the short-term benefits of mining royalties over long-term benefits from agricultural enterprise.
Across the board only 26 per cent of respondents had been involved in dealings with mining companies, which comprised 47 per cent of those from the Yorke Peninsula, 41 per cent of those from the Eyre Peninsula, and 7 per cent of those from the South-East.
The Eyre Peninsula has undergone significant new mining developments in recent years, with iron ore and graphite showing promise for investors, particularly in the case of Iron Road’s new magnetite project Central Eyre, which may generate revenue worth more than South Australia’s wheat, beer and wine sales combined.
The South-East region has also attracted attention from state government as new area for development of unconventional gas reserves.
SA Mineral Resources and Energy minister Tom Koutsantonis has said the state was at the centre of an “energy revolution” that would invest billions of dollars in the SA economy, and create jobs for regional communities.
“SA has developed the right checks-and-balances to make sure we can attract investment in oil and gas while protecting our valuable farmland and the environment,” he said.
“This world-class regulatory framework ensured that no exploration, development or production could go ahead in SA until public consultation was undertaken and potential risks to social, natural and economic environments were assessed.”
Despite the beliefs held by South Australian farmers, miners at the other end of the country have taken steps to bring mining and farming together, with Gina Rinehart joining the trend of big iron ore miners investing in cattle by buying a 50 per cent share in two cattle stations in the Kimberly region of Western Australia.