Protecting Wilderness and National Parks

Labor’s Coal & Gas Plan – a good step that the Coalition should build upon

“Labor’s 10 point plan is a step in the right direction, but it is not enough to address the enormous problems that can arise when coal and gas development is given development priority over almost every other land use in a region”, said Keith Muir director of the Colong Foundation for Wilderness.

“Labor’s Coal and Coal Seam Gas Plan doesn’t offer any variation of mining intensity or adaptive management, but does propose more feedback to government on mining development and regulatory tools, such as where it will ban mining,” he said.

“The Coal and Gas Ombudsman, the handful of compliance officers and government auditing will provide Government with more feedback on the coal and gas mining boom.  The problem is that no adaptation strategy is proposed to respond to this intelligence to stop the damage.  The key technique is to reduce mining intensity where the natural resources in the landscape could be damaged, and not just in exceptional circumstances where it would be banned”, Mr Muir said.

“For example, a Coal Seam Methane (CSM) field may be relatively unproductive or associated with considerable amounts of eco-toxic water effluent.  In those circumstances competing rural land uses should be given far more consideration, rather than just assuming gas field development has priority,” he said.

“A Coal and Gas Plan needs to provide a framework where mining intensity will be reduced to protect the other natural resources of a region.  Why should low value coal with high ash content always be mined, as dirty coal produces more greenhouse gases per unit energy?  And why should longwall mining developments always propose full extraction under drinking water catchments and vital headwater swamps or under cliffs?  The answer is that obviously the political process steps in and mining intensity is moderated, as we have seen in relation to sensitive water supply catchments,” Mr Muir said.

“The real politic of mining coal and gas development is that mining intensity is in fact moderated to respect social welfare and the environment and respects the value of the resources involved.  Labor’s 10 point plan unfortunately is silent on a strategy to moderate mining intensity, leaving it solely to the political process,” he said. 

The Coalition Parties must improve on Labor’s 10 Point Plan and produce a mining strategy that requires mining to be more compatible with the natural environment and the communities it operates in”, said Mr Muir.

For more information contact: Keith Muir, (02) 9261 2400 (wk) or 0412 791 404 (ah)