Science should be at the centre of mining debates: Macfarlane

The Federal Minister for industry Ian Macfarlane says he finds it ironic that communities which were founded on the mining industry are now ‘hot-beds of resistance’, saying some of the debate around the coal and CSG industries has moved away from science.

Speaking at an industry conference in Sydney, Macfarlane said while he had no problem with an old fashioned protest, he would not stand for people who “wilfully tear down fences, destroy vehicles and deliberaltey break the law”.

Macfarlane said the debate around CSG and proposed mining operations should centre around science.

‘‘Yes, it’s got to comply with environmental standards, yes it’s got to protect the water, etcetera, etcetera,  but I think some of the protests go beyond the actual science and almost into the hearsay and what ifs,” he said.

Macfarlane said all mining applications went through vigorous environmental assessments, stating there is no way to object the science and if there is no proven long-term harm, and if farmers want operation on their properties, no one has the right to object.

"In Queensland we've got 4000 co-existence agreements, we've got farmers earning up to $6 million over the next 20 years… and the CSG companies are there at the invitation of the farmer."

Speaking about community angst around mining operations, Macfarlane said critics needed to recognise that many regions in NSW had been built on the back of mining.  

‘‘If there’s an aerodrome or an airport and people move there and then start complaining about aircraft noise I don’t get that,’’ Macfarlane said.

‘‘If they’ve moved into a coalmining area, and the Hunter Valley has been a coalmining area since well before Federation … if you live in that area you’ve got to expect coalmining.

‘‘That’s the industry that built it – coalmining, iron and steel.

A former famer himself, Macfarlane said he is an advocate of the CSG industry and commented that the energy boom seen in Queensland had meant farmers could stay on their land and repopulate regional communities, keeping them viable.

Macfarlane said it was the industry’s responsibility to communicate the potential benefits of the energy boom.

“There are issues and lessons the whole industry can learn from coal seam gas,’ he stated.

Macfarlane said his government was committed to removing a “whole range of impediments” to the long-term stability and growth of the industry.

He reinforced commitments to cut through red and green tape, abolish the mining and carbon taxes and flagged the introduction of an exploration incentive scheme next year.

“Our government is about restoring confidence to the mining industry,” he said.

“We want Australians to be proud of the resources industry.

“It’s a great industry and the basis of our economic well-being.”

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