2010 – The principal aims and objectives we are seeking to implement are:
1. MORATORIUM ON CSG INDUSTRY. We believe as a matter of the greatest priority, that there should be a moratorium immediately placed on the coal seam gas industry, until a full enquiry can be conducted into the impact of this industry on the GAB (see 2). There is already more than sufficient evidence on the potential of CSG mining to destroy the GAB, to justify calling an immediate halt to CSG mining until the results of an independent enquiry are known.
2. INDEPENDENT ENQUIRY. There must be a full and independent enquiry into the pollution and massive usage of GAB water by the mining and extractive industries, and into the damage these industries are causing to the GAB. A recent surge of CSG and LNG exploration licences in land over the recharge areas for the Murray Darling Basin, the GAB and other groundwaters, has raised enormous concerns that this mining will contaminate (and has the potential to completely destroy) these areas, and the GAB. Again, there should be an immediate moratorium on this industry, until this enquiry is conducted.
3. AGREEMENT. There should be an agreement signed between the three States and the Territory, that all underlie the Great Artesian Basin – as to the sustainable use of GAB water, and that no states sell off any further licences to GAB water until such agreement is reached. We need national co-ordination on GAB management, or else Federal intervention in the matter.
4. INCREASED FUNDING. One of our principal aims is for greatly increased funding for GABSI, to continue (and speed up) the capping, piping and reconditioning of all free-flowing GAB bores. But this program (of Cap & Pipe) is being undermined by the CSG industry (see 1). The amount of GAB water being saved by cap & pipe, cannot remotely keep pace with the amount of water being sucked out and wasted by the mining & extractive industries. And the present GABSI 3 funding is only sufficient to cap about 5 bores a year in NSW. This is ridiculous, while 500,000 megalitres a year is just gushing out of uncapped bores, and being wasted.
5. LEGISLATION, REGULATION AND INSPECTIONS. This CSG industry is self-regulated – and so a system of constant and random inspections by an independent body, should be immediately introduced. The governments have handed out exploration licences over most of the GAB area, without the legislation in place to protect the GAB and other aquifers. They have now been playing ‘catch up’ and making policy decisions to deal with the problems as they arise. No other industry that has the potential to have such an enormous detrimental impact on the environment, and on our vital and finite water, is allowed to conduct their business without stringent inspections. Again, there should be a moratorium on this industry until this is resolved.
6. FOR ONE SINGLE NATIONAL BODY to be in charge of the GAB. We believe that GAB management should be a Federal issue, not State versus State. It is one single Great Artesian Basin and should have one national non-political management body. The governments’ mismanagement and over-allocation of water from the river systems has had disastrous effects on the entire Murray Darling Basin. Look at the mess its in now. And that was visible water, with a chance of recovery – given floods. The GAB is deep underground, and not clearly understood – plus it is finite, and won’t recover when it is lost. The whole system of GAB management is flawed and must change, and change radically, if the GAB and Australian agriculture are to survive longer than a couple of decades. The GABCC has had a mandate for long enough to correct this situation, but has done nothing to curb the mushrooming CSG mining industry.
As the late, great water warrior Professor Peter Cullen said four years ago:
“If you just have a free for all, grabbing at whatever ground-water’s there, they’ll all dry up. So I think a prudent government should be managing a resource like this to make sure that this wonderful natural asset that you’ve got, is there for the future and future generations,” he said. “I’m advocating a national approach to managing our ground water seriously and that means controlling who can take it and measuring how much they take.”
It is disheartening that while we struggle to get govt. funding to cap & pipe the free-flowing bores and to conserve water in the Basin, and at the same time bore owners are contributing large amounts of their own money to the same end, yet the mines and extractive industries are wasting these unbelievable amounts of the very water we are all trying so hard to conserve. They are allowed “unlimited take” of GAB water – even though the govt. has admitted that this is ‘unsustainable’.
The majority of the gas exploration is over the Surat Basin, which is already the most degraded of all the basins within the Great Artesian Basin. There are currently about 40,000 holes to be drilled into the Basin. On p. 49 of the QMDC (Murray Darling Committee) Impact Statement, it states that Coal Exploration Applications have been issued for 5.86 million ha. of GAB areas, and approvals have already been granted for 1.83 million ha. And with the Condamine and other creeks and rivers, they have applications for licences over an additional 3.1 million ha.
These mining giants are operating on the assumption that all mining and csg exploration licences will be approved – as none have been denied. And on 22.10.2010, the Minister gave approval for the enormous Gladstone gas project, which allows for 6,000 gas wells. All environmental impact statements, submissions, feasibility studies, senate enquiries etc. appear to be disregarded. There should be an immediate moratorium on this industry, until there is an independent and uncompromised enquiry into this enormous issue, which has the potential to totally destroy the GAB (underlying some of Australia’s most productive land). This would of course spell disaster for not only the people living above it, but indeed would have huge ramifications for all Australia.
Excluding income derived from CSG, it has been estimated that “the loss of GAB water equals a potential loss of $14 billion each year in total value of future national production, or $38 million each day.” It is not only the agriculture and businesses that rely on the GAB that will be lost when it runs dry, but the country towns as well. The complete devastation to the rural communities and economy would be staggering. In light of the enormous value of the GAB to the Australian economy, and the more enormous potential future loss to our economy – it seems inconceivable that the governments would risk losing the certain income (and food production) from these long-term viable and sustainable industries that rely on the GAB, for something as short-term, unsustainable, and destructive as CSG mining. Yet that is what they are doing.
Of enormous concern is not just the huge amount of water that the coal seam gas industries are using, the fact that they de-water and de-pressurise the aquifers to extract the gas, but also their pollution of the water, the related aquifers, and the surrounding environment is well documented (links to articles, below).
We know that mining is important to Australia’s economy, and will continue for the revenue it brings, the jobs, and for the Australian economy. But not at the cost of destroying our greatest national resource, an irreplaceable fresh-water reserve in the most arid inhabited continent in the world. It has already been repeatedly documented, that problems are already occurring on a regular basis with water contamination. Once an aquifer has been destroyed, it cannot be repaired.
It does alarm our organisation greatly, that it is increasingly difficult to get a true and honest opinion from hydrogeologists and experts – owing to the threat of their govt. funding being cut off, if they give their honest opinion, which happens to be contrary to the government’s position on the subject. Our main aim with any such enquiry would be to find totally independent and uncompromised hydrogeologists or experts in this field, to conduct this enquiry. Only recently a scientist who published an opinion contrary to the government’s stated position, was subsequently told that if he expressed this opinion publicly again, his funding would be terminated.
In summary, we are requesting a very open and transparent enquiry into the long-term environmental impact, as well as the impact and effect on the GAB – how csg and other mining will affect both the quantity and quality of GAB water. By quantity, the enquiry must ascertain how much the billions of litres daily being sucked out of the GAB by the mines (and also the myriad of CSG mines that have already applied for licences, and are awaiting approval) will deplete the GAB. And by ‘quality’, we mean that the enquiry must investigate the rock fracturing, polluting, inter-aquifer leakage, and other fouling of GAB water.
Read “Coal Seam Gas Extraction – Impact on the GAB & Environment” for details of the problems caused by this industry.
89 Submissions to the Senate enquiry on impact of mining in the MDB: http://www.aph.gov.au/senate/committee/eca_ctte/mining_mdb/submissions.htm
Submission from the Australian Society of Soil Sciences
Qld. Murray Darling Committee Impact Statement:
Here is a study (for QGC) that talks of drawdowns, water table lowering etc from CSG extraction: