Up near Capella, north of Emerald in Queensland, cattle farmers Mick and Margaret Shaw took on the Kestrel mine, objecting to Pacific Coal (Rio Tinto) wanting surface rights to mine under part of their mining lease, which extends over a fifth of the Shaws’ cattle property.
They had seen the results of longwall mining under a neighbour’s property — cracking, subsidence, water running the wrong way. Their objections were dismissed by the Land and Resources Court; they appealed and won, since it was found that ‘the mining lease contained a fatal flaw, a technical error that made it invalid in relation to the Shaws’ land’.
But then the Queensland Minister for Natural Resources said:
“The State’s interests in extracting its minerals resources for the benefit of the people were at risk” and so ‘they granted the company surface rights, not just to the small portion it had originally applied for but to all of the lease area on the Shaws’ land’. (ABC 7:30 Report 14.8.2002)
The Shaws felt this would make their property unviable, and the company should buy them out. But, as always, the company assured the government that the level of subsidence here would be ‘minimal’.
Local organic farmer Paul Murphy showed me that rollercoaster of a road at the top of this post, which demonstrates the ‘minimal subsidence’, 12 years after mining; two-metre deep dips — still sinking and constantly being repaired…
…and one other visible impact of those old longwalls — bands of dying established trees over the 265-metre longwall bands but not over the 30-metre gaps in between.
The mine owns most of the land now and leases it out, and I suppose they’d say that this most un-idyllic pastoral scene proves that agriculture and mining can co-exist.
Of course, if people complain about underground mining, there are plenty of old overburden dumps left unshaped and unrehabilitated — in which Queensland abounds — for them to refresh their memories and choose which they found least invasive. There is never a choice for neither.