Mining on farmland 'ridiculous': Joyce

08 Jul, 2015 02:00 PM
Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce.
It is ridiculous that you would have a major mine in the midst of Australia’s best agricultural land
Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce.

ENVIRONMENT Minister Greg Hunt's decision to approve Shenhua Australia's $1 billion Watermark open cut coal mine on the NSW Liverpool Plains has incensed Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce.

Mr Joyce said today the decision to approve the mine in his largely agricultural rural electorate was "ridiculous".

"I’ve never supported the Shenhua mine. I think it is ridiculous that you would have a major mine in the midst of Australia’s best agricultural land," he said.

  • READ MORE: Watermark gets green light

  • "I’ve done everything in my power to try and stop the mine. We brought about further investigations; we had an independent expert scientific review.

    "I feel this approval is unfortunate, but at the very least it gives the Minister for the Environment the condition that if any of the modelling does not turn out to be factual he has the capacity to stop it at that point.

    "The fault of this goes right back to who gave the exploration licences and why - and was further exacerbated by those who deemed it proper that it should proceed and continued on with the process."

    Mr Joyce noted there were still two further steps at the state level to go through following the federal approval.

    "I’ve said publicly and privately I don’t support this mine. I still don’t support this mine and that will remain forever more my view.

    "I think the world has gone mad when apparently you cannot build a house at Moore Creek because of White Box grassy woodlands but you can build a super mine in the middle of the Breeza plains."

    At the National Press club on Monday, Mr Joyce was asked what his government was doing at the federal level to ensure prime farmland was safeguarded from mining industries.

    He said it was “mad” to completely shut down CSG industries where there’s $40 billion worth of investment around Gladstone.

    But Mr Joyce said guidelines were needed as to how it worked including not mining on prime agricultural land and to not destroy aquifers.

    “There is no more prime ag land being built anywhere in the world,” he said.

    “Whatever we have, it's here now, in fact each day there's less of it, so protect it.

    “Aquifers are a public asset and so many people in so many areas rely on them. They rely on them downstream and around and everywhere, so you've got to protect that asset.”

    Mr Joyce said the mining also had to deliver a fair return back to the community and miners and State governments had “got it wrong” by getting “too greedy” towards farmers.

    “If the community sees all this action going on around it, then it would expect that their hospitals to be fixed, and their schools to be refurbished, and their roads to be sealed,” he said.

    “What really annoys people in regional areas, when they see the money from the resources in their area in new tunnels and new freeways in the city because they say, ‘that's just exploiting us’.

    “To be honest, the mines got it wrong, and the State governments got wrong, they all got wrong because they got too greedy.

    “You must make sure a fair return goes back to the farmer.

    “At the start, we were finding (situations where) a well was producing $60,000 a day and the farmer got a case of beer.

    “Another one got $240 a year (and) another one was getting $1500 but he was keeping it a secret.

    “Once these things become exposed, you say well that's just exploitation.”

    Mr Joyce said he thought a fair deal was that no less than 1 per cent of the gross in the well head should be the deal that the farmer gets.

    “That's a pretty good deal because everybody else gets 99 per cent and people argued against it,” he said.

    “They said that was outrageous.

    “Well here's another deal: nobody gets anything.

    “And because people we so tight, because they didn't walk up and do the business, and were fair in their application of how they dealt with those farmers, the mining companies lost their sweet spot in the delivery of those minerals.

    “But if they'd dealt in a fair way, then they would have their product online.

    “There has to be a fair return back to the people whose lives it ultimately affects.”

    Shenhua has spent more than $200 million purchasing farmland for the project and concluded exploratory drilling in July 2012 where it gathered information for assessment including environmental reporting and community consultation.

    In February, the NSW government approved the project, which is expected to deliver more than $900 million in economic benefits, 900 local jobs and about $1.5 billion in State government royalties over its 30-year lifespan.

    Ahead of the NSW election in March, the issue was referred Mr Hunt to assess under the EPBC Act, which was instigated by Mr Joyce’s predecessor in New England, Tony Windsor.

    At the time of the federal referral, Shadow Agriculture Minister Joel Fitzgibbon accused the Abbott government of using the Water Trigger Bill to “pause” the coal mining project long enough to protect the NSW Baird government from “the public outcry on this contentious project”.

    Colin Bettles

    Colin Bettles

    is the national political writer for Fairfax Agricultural Media
    Date: Newest first | Oldest first


    8/07/2015 4:15:23 PM

    People who did not inherit a farm need jobs.
    Sir Les P
    8/07/2015 5:08:06 PM

    Well said Barnaby, mate could you please send this on to the LNP in Qld especially Seeney & Cripps/let them know the Landholder is Number 1 not the Gas or Coal co. Your opinions are valued CSG would have earlier access with 1% WHV we've tried so it's been very drawn out for 3 yrs now & still know access & they've got 300K solicitors bill so far.
    8/07/2015 8:12:22 PM

    Sorry Barnaby, it doesn't wash. Whilst I am a long time conservative, the The Greens have got a Leader now that speaks some sence and your Coalition Leader (whom wants to double down on coal as the expense of green tech) have lost the plot and the rural vote. Interesting also the ag white paper spin was only just days before. This decision will be fundamental to your endevours (via Green seats and preferences) and a change of Leader won't stem the tide. I hope the accountancy profession is kind to you in years to come. All the best.
    9/07/2015 5:21:05 AM

    Talk is cheap Barnaby, actions speak louder than words!
    Ted O'Brien.
    9/07/2015 6:18:23 AM

    This is indeed madness, destroying forever a significant area of Australia's best farmland, and its aquifer, and putting a much greater area at risk. It started with the farmer despising Carr government, and from there it just got too expensive to be allowed to fail. All because it is cheaper to mine coal there than somewhere else. This will become recognised in history as an act of evil men.
    Frank the Furious Farmer
    9/07/2015 6:39:50 AM

    its all about money and big business, Barney can say what he likes, but his words don't really matter any more. Just look at the activity from Barney on the Senate Inquiry into grass fed cattle transaction levies, he initiated it, the Senate spent millions doing the job, came up with seven excellent recommendations and what has happened; er um NOTHING. Does it really matter what Barney says, actions speak louder than words!!
    John Newton
    9/07/2015 6:40:00 AM

    Cl;int don't forget that the only politician to stand by the farmers on the Liverpool Plains when this proposal was first made was Le Rhiannon, now a Greens senator, then a member of the NSW upper house. Not a Nat a Lib or a Lab to be seen.
    9/07/2015 8:19:48 AM

    Geronimo, there won't be jobs for locals. Under the FTA signed with China, they're allowed to bring in their own workers. There is also an agreement that these workers won't need to be paid aust pay rates.
    9/07/2015 11:40:50 AM

    Time for every farmer & related Agri. businesses/companies in Australia to take a stand . Class action against the Govt & the laws that allows these approvals, There is plenty of coal/gas in other parts of Australia that is not on prime land owned by Australians. This needs to stop now, the Govt can still make the same revenue Miners make a living and also create the jobs that everyone wants.
    9/07/2015 12:46:21 PM

    Avondale, which Australians are you referring to - the first?! Land ownership rights is a precarious platform for agriculture.
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