Jim Wiltshire at the mining protest at shadow cabinet community consultations earlier this year in Toowoomba.
Jim Wiltshire at the mining protest at shadow cabinet community consultations earlier this year in Toowoomba.

Coal exploration a 'future risk'

IT’S been nicknamed a “grassroots revolution” and Warwick is being encouraged to at least be aware of the movement which buried a mining application in Toowoomba.

With one fifth of Queensland covered by exploration leases, it’s no surprise there’s an application for a permit for coal exploration in the Southern Downs.

What is of concern is the 400sq km area, which covers the city centre of Warwick, and the fact that, despite being submitted in 2008, council has only just become aware of its existence.

Last month Minister for Employment, Skills and Mining Stirling Hinchliffe pledged to review the Warwick application to assess the appropriateness of the exploration process before it is approved or rejected.

The general feeling is the application will be lucky to succeed and, if approved, strict conditions would protect Warwick’s urban areas.

But Jim Wiltshire, a member of Toowoomba Coal Mine Action Group (TCMAG), is warning against complacency when it comes to protecting homes, schools and quality agricultural land.

Mr Wiltshire has lived in Warwick and is now in Gowrie Junction. He said residents there had no idea a mining company had been granted an exploration permit on their land until it appeared in the newspaper and it was too late to object.

This spurred a campaign, which included public meetings, lobbying ministers and politicians, and eventually led to the refusal of a Toowoomba application.

Minister Hinchliffe has now committed to reviewing the application process, but Mr Wiltshire asked what would happen if or when we had a new minister.

“We can’t be lax about this, we have to act now,” he said.

The Southern Downs application, lodged by company Altera Resources Limited, covers a huge area, which stretches from Dalveen to Allan to Yangan to the Eight Mile and includes Warwick itself.

The success rate of mining explorations is about 1% and a whole new set of procedures kicks in if an exploration company decides to mine.

However, coal has been found in this region and while it is considered low quality at the moment, in 20 to 30 years, it could be a different story.

For Southern Downs councillor Cameron Gow, Warwick has some of the best agricultural land in the country. Though mining could have economic benefits, he said that land must be protected.

Mr Wiltshire said he believed if the application could be stopped in Toowoomba, it should be stopped in Warwick and has offered the TCMAG’s assistance for interested residents. He offered a community information session and the TCMAG’s email address for any questions.

While Cr Gow backed an information session, Mayor Ron Bellingham said council wouldn’t be the catalyst for such an event.

Anyone looking for more information from TCMAG can email tcmag@live.com.

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