Freo's View


Posted in australia, fremantle, perth, politics, tourism, western australia by freoview on September 10, 2010

This is the Hansard entry of the speech by Fremantle independent MLA Adele Carles about a proposed mine in the Margaret River region.:

When I think of Margaret River, I think of pristine surf beaches, vineyards, boutique industries, organic food, tourism, agriculture and native forest. All of this bundles into the Margaret River brand, which the local people have lovingly created over decades and are now being forced to defend. I do not think that anyone in this house associates a coalmine with the Margaret River brand, yet strangely, LD Operations thinks it can open a coalmine there.

There is a lot at stake here; what is clear is that this company intends to proceed, despite overwhelming opposition to this coalmine. In an article in The West Australian of Tuesday, 7 September, the general manager of LD Operations was quoted as saying — Similar to all other project developments in WA, we expect the Vasse coal project to be scrutinised by the Government under the same threshold requirements to meet each stage of project approval, In other words, LD Operations is seeking to pursue its legal right to mine coal in Vasse. Yes, it has the legal right to pursue approval, but there are political decisions that will have to operate alongside these technical approvals to make this mine site work.

The state government will have to be on side with LD Operations to make it work. The Bunbury port will need to be upgraded, presumably at taxpayers’ expense. There will need to be a road constructed through state forest, and there will be massive increases in heavy vehicle usage on local roads, all to the detriment of local people. I understand that this mine will generate one truck movement every nine minutes. I seek the Premier’s personal assurance that his government will not facilitate the taxpayer-funded infrastructure needed to support this coalmine. I urge him to spell this out to the proponent, so that it gets the message loud and clear: this mine is not welcome in the region and the pursuance of approvals will be a waste of time and money for it. While we are talking about legal rights, who will compensate the affected landowners—the local businesses that fall within the mine precinct?

This mine will be situated at a distance of 15 kilometres down Osmington Road from Margaret River, and every farm along that road has already been devalued by this proposal. How can they sell now, even if they wanted to? Compensation arguments cut both ways here. If this mine goes ahead, it will truly be the thin end of the wedge. Is the Premier aware that there are as many as 10 mining leases between Dunsborough and Augusta? If this one proceeds, how will he reasonably stop the others? The south west could become a coal province instead of the beautiful tourism region that it is now. Coalmining is clearly incompatible with the land uses, lifestyles and existing industries in the region. For example, Margaret River wine is of world-class standard.

Is the Premier aware that Cullen Wines of Margaret River has this week won an award in London for producing the world’s best chardonnay? Cullen Wines beat hundreds of chardonnays from around the world, including France and Italy, in the most fiercely contested categories. Winemaker Vanya Cullen said that while 2007 was a great vintage, the wine also reflected the biodynamic techniques used since 2004. What an achievement! I do not think such accolades would be possible if the grapes grown in the region were affected by contaminated groundwater, which is a serious risk from this proposed mine.

Underground coalmining is fraught with risks of environmental impacts. I could go on and on but I am limited by time. The greatest risk is contamination of the Leederville aquifer by toxic heavy metals liberated by acid mine drainage from the coal seam or hypersaline discharge. Once an aquifer is contaminated, it cannot be remediated; the aquifer is permanently damaged and will, in turn, ruin the crops it is used on and possibly harm the humans and animals who use water drawn from it. This may also cause negative impacts on underground water supplies that our farmers rely on and contribute to Margaret River itself drying up.

How many projects in WA have we seen approved by the Environmental Protection Authority with strict conditions and world’s best practice claims only to pollute and contaminate the air and water around us? The answer is plenty. We can take our pick from Cockburn Cement, Alcoa’s Wagerup refinery, the brickworks at Midland, acid contamination at the Beenup mine or lead contamination in Esperance. We do not need EPA assurances.

We can look to New South Wales where BHP subsidiaries operate an underground coalmine. The mine was recently identified as a source of hypersaline water waste contamination into the Georges River by independent researchers at the University of Western Sydney. The plume of saline groundwater travelled 15 kilometres before damaging the river and its ecosystems. I note that that is the distance of this proposed mine from our precious Margaret River. There are all sorts of other negative impacts that we can look to New South Wales for. A 2007 scientific report stated — Widespread cracking and draining of river and creek beds and underground aquifers, cliff falls, the draining of rare swamps, fish kills, methane gas bubbling to the surface, iron oxide pollution and the release of wastewater into river systems continue to occur across four coal mining regions of New South Wales as a result of longwall mining. I turn to the human face of this issue. The people who will be directly affected by the mine are those who live in close proximity to the site and whose businesses will be negatively affected. I had the privilege to speak to many of them last Sunday. They are living with uncertainty and stress. Some said they are considering selling as they do not want to live near a mine. Others wonder if they should move on from their businesses now. None of them wants to take this action but they are fearful of what they stand to lose.

I call on the Premier to act quickly and decisively to restore certainty and confidence for local people. Why should they live in the shadow of this proposal? I was very heartened to hear the Premier’s comments that he may be considering legislation along the same lines used in the Swan Valley. I urge the Premier to draft this legislation as a matter of urgency so that the mining sharks that are circling around Margaret River will leave that place alone and leave that region as the beautiful tourist destination that it is. I believe that the Premier will look back and see this as a defining moment. I urge him to step up to the plate and stand up for the people in the South West.

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  1. freoview said, on September 10, 2010 at 4:44 pm

    I absolutely agree with this, Adele.

    It really is insane to believe a pristine and world renowned wine region can accommodate mining as well, no matter if that is below ground or not.

    Wine makers like, Di and Vanya Cullens, David Hohnen, and many others have worked their guts out to make the region what it is and we cannot allow that to be destroyed.

    Roel Loopers


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