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Farmers occupy Qld Premier's office to save Darling Downs from coal mining

Media release : Friday 31st October 2008

Location : Anna Bligh's office, West End, Brisbane

Farmers occupy Qld Premier's office to save Darling Downs from coal mining

The Friends of Felton group today sat on the floor in the Premier's office to demand the Government introduce legislation to protect prime farmland from mining. The peaceful protest involved around 25 people1.

Spokesman Rob McCreath said "The mining boom is out of control. Areas such as Felton, Jimbour, and Warra are the jewels in the crown of rural Queensland. The Premier must act now to protect our food bowl from destruction."

The group set up a mock lunch table on the pavement outside the office, with a plate of coal for the Premier's lunch, and a glass of polluted water.

The protesters shared their own picnic lunch with onlookers – a picnic made from fresh Darling Downs ingredients.

Media contact: Rob McCreath 0409 014219

Postscript: The Courier Mail of the next day, Saturday 1 November 2008 completely failed to report protest in spite of this media release having been sent some time before 1:03PM. The business section included more stories about the claimed prosperity that coal mining will bring to the Darling Downs:

  • "No-brainer for QGC to a accept BG bid" about a takeover bid for the Queensland Gas (Company(?)) by the British BG Group; and
  • "All aboard for ... boom times in Cinchilla". The latter briefly acknowledges concerns of farmers about the extraction of Coal Seam Gas (CSG) but fails to mention the protest.

Appendix: The case against Coal Mining In Felton Valley

This has been adapted from a PDF leaflet from Friends Of Felton

The Development

Stage 1: A three year demonstration project involving the mining of 750,000 t/yr of coal and its processing into Di-methyl ether (DME), an alternative fuel, and gas for a power station.

Stage 2: Massive expansion of the mine to 12.8 million tonnes/yr.2 Expansion of power station and petrochemical plant.

The mine's anticipated output of 12.8 million tonnes/yr would be greater than any existing Queensland coal mine!!

This is TWICE the size of the new Acland mine, near Oakey.

Key arguments against the development

  • Destruction of an area of renowned natural beauty, encompassing areas of remnant vegetation, home to several officially recognised vulnerable and endangered species.
  • Loss and degradation of prime agricultural land.
  • CO2 emissions. The production of DME releases huge quantities of CO2. The developer has vague plans for the capture of this CO2, transport using a leak-prone disused oil pipeline, and storage underground in exhausted oil fields. This process is unproven and insecure. The capacity of the nominated oil field to cope with the volume of CO2 produced is doubtful.
  • Drainage and contamination of underground aquifers, the lifeblood of our community.
  • Pollution of Hodgson Creek, in the headwaters of the Murray- Darling river system.
  • Increased flooding of upstream and surrounding farmland as a result of levee banks around mine and infrastructure.

The Friends of Felton are committed to opposing a coal mine at Felton for the following reasons:

  1. WRONG PLACE: Felton is a closely settled, sustain- able farming community located only 30 kilometres from Toowoomba – this special place should not be sacrificed for a coal mine and petro-chemical processing plant. A coal washing plant would be built next to Hodgson Creek, in the headwaters of the Murray-Darling, using salty water piped in from the Dalby gas fields – a recipe for disaster.
  2. TOO BIG: At full production the mine would take out 12.8 million tonnes of coal a year. This would make it one of the biggest coal mines in Queensland and the negative impact on the environment, the community and the region would be significant and unacceptable.
  3. WRONG PRODUCT: The proponents plan to convert the coal into di-methyl ether (or DME) which could be used as a substitute for diesel. Production of DME on-site would turn Felton into Australia's biggest single point source of pollution – similar to what has happened following development of a coal to oil industry in South Africa resulting in pollution which is visible from space. Moreover the conversion process is highly inefficient: at least 40% of the energy in coal would be wasted in the production of DME.
  4. WRONG RESPONSE TO DWINDLING FUEL SUPPLIES: At first glance, converting plentiful coal into scarce oil looks smart. But a lasting solution does not lie in trying to maintain oil production through innovation. The world can undo its vulnerability to shrinking oil supplies by consuming less. Oil efficiency will extend the life of known energy supplies by hundreds of years, ample time to develop renewable alternatives. Oil frugality is a shared responsibility and must start here and now.
  5. GLOBAL WARMING: CO2 emissions from this project will be significant. Coal miners want to make coal 'clean' by capturing and storing the carbon dioxide emitted when it is processed in leak-proof underground reservoirs. But the technology is a long way off. In fact commercial-scale CO2 sequestration is unlikely before 2030.

HOWEVER the mine will only go ahead if the government grants it an operating licence. If you agree with the position adopted by Friends of Felton please add your support by whatever means possible. The decision makers already know that not all mining proposals are acceptable. What they still need to be convinced about is the unacceptability of the one being proposed for Felton.

How can you help?

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Phone: 07 4691 0195

Email: wingfielders [ AT ]

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1. The media release stated 20. I counted 25 protestors including myself - JS

2. Originally it was to have a capacity of 24 million tonnes/yr of 4 times the capacity of the new mine at Acland, but it was scaled back to 12.8 million tonnes/yr. They were to use water drained from acquifers to wash the coal, but they have since claimed that they can do without the use of water. Friends of Felton are skeptical that this will last.

See also:, YouTube broadcast of (Oct 2008(?)) "Coal Mines To Replace Farms in Australia", "Darling Downs community fights farmland for mine move" in Sunday Mail of 1 Nov 08 (Friday's protest not reported), "Coal vs cropping fight widens" in Stock and Land of 15 Oct 08, "Lone stand as coalminers poised to bulldoze Acland" in the Courier Mail of 18 Oct 08, "Darling Downs farmers vow to resist coal miners" in the Courier Mail of 5 Oct 08, "Qld farmers take on coal industry" in the Green Left Weekly of 25 Oct 08.