'I've spent my life savings fighting a mine company'
SCOTTVILLE resident Garry Reed saw a bulldozer last week clearing land near the Collinsville Airport, his heart sinking.
He believed that the bulldozer was clearing Sonoma Mine land where a proposed Coral Creek diversion was planned to increase the life of the mine.
A diversion he had been fighting the company, QCoal for almost a decade to stop.
The local farmer said he had heard from other concerned residents that QCoal's Sonoma Mine was going to start the diversion work of Coral Creek soon so it could access coal under the existing watercourse, under works approved by the State Government in 2010.
Acting on the rumours, Mr Reed passed the area each time he went to town to check if any work had started, but he found the bulldozer quite by accident.
On the day he saw the bulldozer, he had stopped to move a big grey kangaroo off the road. It was only when he stopped that he heard the bulldozer.
"I drove around to the airport and I still couldn't see it. So I climbed onto the back of the ute and could see the top of the bulldozer."
He said in that moment he knew the battle he had been fighting for almost a decade was lost.
But, QCoal said yesterday, the recent activity was ongoing maintenance and development of tracks to 'operational areas'.
"At present Sonoma Mine is not contemplating expansions beyond its current approval," a QCoal spokesperson said.
"Sonoma's long term plan has several approved mining areas remaining including a minor diversion of Coral Creek. With respect to recent activities, as always, there has been development and maintenance of access tracks to operational areas of the mining leases and ongoing vegetation management."
The spokesperson said the company kept the community updated on the going-ons at the mine with a regular community meeting.
"QCoal values our community with over 50 per cent of the operational workforce living locally and significant indigenous employment," he said.
"QCoal utilises local and regional networks to promote business and employment opportunities for the benefit of the local community."
Mr Reed had inherited his farm downstream from the mine from his father about 10 years ago. His father used to grow tomatoes, citrus and grapes on the property, but despite grand plans Mr Reed had not continued the farm because of ill health.
He said when the Land Court made its decision in support of the mine's expansion he had no money left to appeal the decision.
He said he already spent about $250,000 in legal costs to stop the mine and was penniless.
"I started out on my challenge to the diversion and mining of Coral Creek in the Land Court with the help of the public interest solicitors, the Environmental Defenders Office of North Qld and a private barrister, and was threatened with $3.7million of costs by QCoal's lawyers before the election of the Newman LNP government that quickly defunded the two EDOs in Queensland," he said.
"I went on to pay over $250,000 to private lawyers, spending all of my and my father's savings and most of my superannuation."
Mr Reed said the diversion of the creek would not work and cause excessive sediment run-off and destroy the subterranean water course underneath Coral Creek.
"My dad was a man ahead of his time and was always concerned about the sediment in the creek and topsoil that was lost," he said. Mr Reed said the diversion of the creek threatened to put more sediment down.
"The cost of damage to the reef from that sediment would run into millions of dollars," Mr Reed said.
According to an EIS, QCoal is required to record the quality of the water at several points above and below the mine site.
The company is also required to monitor underground water quarterly from 10 bore sites. According to the conditions, the only contaminate permitted to be release is treated sewerage.
The mine, about six kilometres south of Collinsville, produces four million tonnes of hard coking and thermal coal each year.
Read Garry's letter to us in full:
The rumour that the Bowen Basin QCoal Sonoma coal mine were about to proceed with the diversion and mining of Coral Creek was confirmed on the 11 February when the vegetation between the creek bank and the Collinsville Aerodrome boundary was bulldozed. It appears that QCoal Sonoma did not have a Fauna Spotter Catcher as promised in their Species Management Plan and that is a mandatory Qld Government requirement.
Over 40 locals made submissions and objections to the approvals and licences to carry out the highly risky digging up of our very reliable Coral Creek that landholders and ecosystems downstream depend on including the Birralee - Pelican Creek Aggregation Nationally Important Wetland.
QCoal Sonoma has ignored local knowledge and abused their power to break our struggle to challenge the inadequate and faulty approvals process. Our governments have a responsibility to protect the community from the rapacious and greedy who exploit those in a weaker position. QCoal Sonoma should never have been given an exploration lease let alone a mining lease over Coral Creek.
I started out on my challenge to the diversion and mining of Coral Creek in the Land Court with the help of the public interest Solicitors: the Environmental Defenders Office of North Qld [EDO NQ] and a private Barrister, and was threatened with $3.7 million of costs by QCoal's Lawyers before the election of the Newman LNP Government that quickly defunded the two EDOs in Queensland. I went on to pay over $250,000 to private Lawyers spending all my and my Father's savings and most of my superannuation.
The highly unreliable constructed diverted part of Coral Creek proposed is predicted to produce at least 100,000 tonnes of sediment that will flow downstream and out to the Coral Sea and contribute to a reduction in water quality on the Great Barrier Reef. The costs of damage to the reef from that sediment would run into millions of dollars.
It is also galling to understand that the defunding of Australia's Energy Research & Development Corporation by the Howard Government in 1996 when we were leading the World in solar panel efficiency, resulted in the loss of a key scientist to China which is now leading the World in solar panel manufacture and is the source of the panels used in most of the solar farms under construction.
We are finding that trees and crops that used to flourish are now struggling or dying under the impacts of global warming, which has been predicted for decades. Our governments have failed us criminally by favouring industries that offered short term rewards at the expense of other industries and future generations. Australia's reputation is going down the drain.