When the neighbours get pushy

Springwood is a grazing property south of Emerald in Queensland. It is run — and loved — by Lindsay and Avriel Tyson and their adult children and families, who live there, as Tysons have done since the 1890s. All these photos were taken by Avriel. Springwood is beautiful, well watered — and at risk.

The neighbouring Meteor Park used to be a farming property until Xstrata turned much of it into their Rolleston open-cut coal mine in 2004. The track to Springwood runs close by the long piles of dirt and rock where the homestead and garden used to be. Only the mailbox remains.

The Tysons were worried about the effect on their surface and ground water, the creeks and wetlands, their lake and their bores.

This lake is about 5 miles around and 12 feet deep; they have counted 150 pairs of nesting black swans there — and that’s just what was easily visible.

Their Meteor Creek flows to the Fitzroy River and thence to the sea and the Great Barrier Reef at Rockhampton.

Then, in mid-2009, Xstrata announced to them that they were expanding operations — into Springwood — and they now have a mining lease over 7000 acres of it.

The Rolleston mine is moving into the alluvial plains, easy to mine — and easy to flood.  After heavy rains in early 2010 the Rolleston mine flooded; the banks of its dam burst and the resulting silty water rushed out, over the flooded pits and across the plains and into the creeks and wetlands. Mine silt is not just good clean mud.

They were fined $2000 — about 1.5% of one hour’s takings — for exceeding their water discharge into the Fitzroy catchment.

That’ll teach ’em!

Lindsay says that rainfall is always highly variable here, but can be up to 72 inches, and, given that we are expecting increasingly unpredictable and more extreme weather events, mining ought not be allowed anywhere near areas like this. Groundwater is gleaned and filtered and stored in more complex ways than mines ever acknowledge, but it’s an obviously unacceptable risk to mine alluvial plains, or flood plains or near creeks or rivers….

Mines can’t guarantee against damage to our water, regardless of what they say. Pictures like the one below reminded me of those of U.S. valleys polluted from mountaintop mining spills.

So why are we allowing this? The Tysons are doing their best, stressed but determined, losing time and sleep and business in trying to protect what they know is at risk, against their dominating and often intimidating neighbour, who have all the resources and the mining law on their side.

This is an unfair fight.

8 thoughts on “When the neighbours get pushy”

  1. Yes Romke, I agree. I try to raise their issue whenever I speak about my new coal book, as I find it shocking that Springwood should be under threat from a coal mine. Shocking – and heartbreaking for them. Lovely people.

  2. I worked on Avril and Lindsays farm for 3 months back in the late nineties and I must say I have not met nicer and committed people who love their land, their animals and have a great passion for farming. Their land is beautiful and in its own right a nature reserve and should be protected as such. I loved my stay at Springwood and often think back at what a great time I had there. Both Avril and Lindsay work so hard to make a living, it would be a great shame to see this farm and this land going to waste. THis cannot happen.

    Romke Wijngaarden

  3. Hello Janet! yes, it’s a special place and they are lovely people– heartbreaking is the word.

  4. Great to see that Lindsay and Avriel have had their plight given wider coverage! Springwood is highly productive agricultural land not to mention its wonderful lacustrine wetlands and diversity of wildlife. To see coal mines muscle in and take over this type of land (encouraged by the state government) defies logic and must be utterly heartbreaking, especially when the property has been in the family for generations. Keep the fight going!

  5. Hi Mardi,
    Yes I feel for Wandoan, which will be even worse, as the Xstrata mine there is HUGE and if all the leases around it are developed, goodbye Wandoan. The ‘Lockthegates’ campaign is the only way, and bravo to the Wandoan farmers for joining in and saying NO.

  6. Tell them to keep fighting – even if they are getting a bad headache from hitting their head against a brick wall.
    Hugs to them from the Wandoan district which is in for a similar situation.

  7. Thanks for this comment Drew, which I’ve moved to the relevant post.
    Yes I agree re the locked gates policy; I’d heard about it from the Felton group. I’ll pass it on to Avriel. They are on their own out there and really need backup; and I am told now that there are three federally listed threatened ecosystems on the property where the extension is to go.

  8. Drew Hutton November 21, 2010 at 11:17 am
    Hi Sharyn…Interested to read about the Tysons. Here in southern Queensland we have a Lock the Gate campaign against coal and coal seam gas companies whose activities are threatening to destroy whole swathes of the rich agricultural country of the Darling Downs as well as underground water systems. Landowners will be locking their gates against any companies attempting to gain mining or petroleum leases over or access to their properties and committing civil disobedience if necessary. The Tysons and others to the north need to be aware of this.

Comments are closed.