Mingenew locals request water information

29 Apr, 2011 04:00 AM
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KML land asset officer Lee farrell (left), DoW acting regional management water information director Liz Weston, DoW acting water licensing branch manager John Connolly, acting Mid-West Gascoyne regional manager Adam Maskew and acting water licensing program manager Katherine Bozanich.
KML land asset officer Lee farrell (left), DoW acting regional management water information director Liz Weston, DoW acting water licensing branch manager John Connolly, acting Mid-West Gascoyne regional manager Adam Maskew and acting water licensing program manager Katherine Bozanich.

MINGENEW locals are concerned they do not have enough access to information regarding a mining company's plans to tap into a local aquifer.

Nineteen locals turned out to a meeting last Tuesday to discuss Karara Mining Limited's (KML) application for the remaining water allocation from the Parmelia-Leederville aquifer.

Department of Water (DoW) were on hand to clarify issues arising from the interim response to public submissions on the application for 5.3 gigalitres of water.

The main community concerns were the use of potable water for "washing rocks," responsibility for water monitoring and rectification of any associated problems, constraints on future development and the precedent set if the application was approved.

The DoW was represented by acting Mid West Gascoyne regional manager Adam Maskew, acting regional management water information director Liz Weston, acting water licensing branch manager John Connolly and acting water licensing program manager Katherine Bozanich.

Local farmer Aiden Obst said he was staggered an application in the world's driest continent to use drinking water for mining had got to first base.

"We can grow food with this but it is being used to wash rocks," Mr Obst said.

"I wouldn't be here if it wasn't potable and all the talk we get from bureaucracy about the tests is immaterial.

"It's just too much spin."

Mr Maskew said the licensing framework allowed for each application to be considered on its merits and although some saline local aquifers were suitable for part of KML's operations, they needed sufficient high quality water for other processing.

Another local, Peter Mills said there was lots of good water on his 4000 hectare farm but it was very shallow and would be affected by lower water levels.

Mr Connolly said appropriate monitoring would be put in place to allow any problems to be picked up in the early stages and KML would be responsible for collecting data used to identify issues.

"Karara have the responsibility to do it, we do components of it and we audit components of it," Mr Connolly said.

Mr Maskew said the DoW was doing hydrochemical analyses to establish whether water crossed from one side of the Urella fault to the other and quarterly monitoring should be sufficient to pick up seasonal as well as annual changes, depending on the location of bores.

"It's up to the DoW as independent referee to ensure the existing users are protected," Mr Maskew said.

"If they do become impacted upon, the way it will be addressed will be negotiated."

Local Kate Mills said the meeting should have been held 18 months ago, not six weeks before the licence.

"This was sprung on us in October and we're talking about not being far away from maybe having something happen, yet we don't have a lot of information," Ms Mills said.

"I will only be able to make the decision by June if I get the information I require to make it," Mr Maskew said in response.

Greenoil Tree Nursery's Ian Pulbrook said the meeting was "a waste of space" and he did not expect anything to change because of it.

"It shows there is a need for change as they are still working with the 1914 Act and can't deal with the need for water and climate change," Mr Pulbrook said.

"I'm a staunch Liberal supporter but I'll never vote Liberal again in my life.

"We're not getting any infrastructure our way as it's all going to mining and there are no benefits for us."

Mr Pulbrook said his business had to take advantage of economies of scale to remain viable, but if the application went through, he could not expand and grow.

He said the DoW records on which decisions were based were not always right as his property was shown as being under the Yarragadee aquifer when it was under the Parmelia-Leederville aquifer.

"The DoW doesn't have the money to do its own research and KML has cherry-picked the parts they want to support their application," Mr Pulbrook said.

The DoW's final statement of response is expected around June.

He said KML has split the community as it had paid landowners a lot of money for access to land to get pipeline through and the KML camp in nearby Three Springs was already causing locals to lose business.

Mingenew shire CEO Ian Fitzgerald said the council had not made a decision as to its position on the application.

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