The Australian - Heather Brown - 16.7.2011
IN Jondaryan, a small township on the Darling Downs in Queensland, they have been building a mountain of coal for the past 10 years. It is hauled from New Hope Mine at Acland and dumped near the township before being loaded on trains heading to the coast.
The mountain of coal is now as big as the Sydney Opera House and so high it is actually illegal. As far as the Queensland government and the Toowoomba Regional Council are concerned, however, it also happens to be untouchable; a sacred site.
When the east wind blows, the coal dust blasts everything in its path — houses, gardens, motor vehicles — and turns them greasy black. Jondaryan has been transformed from the lazy rhythms of a country town to a life of lingering coughs behind closed doors and windows.
These are a decent people who still have faith in democracy. They write humble letters about the pollution to New Hope Coal, the council and state and federal governments. They plead for someone to help them, but nothing ever happens. New Hope Coal continues to deal with the monitoring of air quality, and the locals say the company tests only on days when the wind is still.
Welcome to Queensland, the place where the “fair go” has gone AWOL and governments, councils and their cronies collude to make mine-owners richer, and the poor are left to fend for themselves.
The plight of Jondaryan and its people has become a metaphor for the deliberate destruction of the Darling Downs by state and federal governments and their lapdogs at the Toowoomba Regional Council.
For them, farmers and communities have become inconsequential in the rush for coal and gas royalties and, with a brand of bureaucratic bullying borrowed from the Soviets, farmers have seen their sovereignty stripped while they are driven off their land.
There are mining permits across more than 90 per cent of the Darling Downs, including dozens of schools, towns and communities, and the region is set to see up to 30 new open-cut coal mines.
There are permits across the richest soils this side of the Ganges Delta and permits over leafy Toowoomba suburbs whose residents have no idea of their fate because the Toowoomba Regional Council has refused to stand up and fight for its citizens.
The looming apocalypse of coal-seam gas has seen a similar explosion of permits granted over nearly every inch of the Darling Downs. CSG companies are buying up prime farms to dump their toxic waste water and Drew Hutton, leader of the Lock the Gate campaign, has warned the region will resemble a pin cushion studded with gas wells, and with it the disastrous destruction of its water supply.
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