In the wake of the Scotland Ban on Underground Coal Gasification, the spotlight is now on the Flinders Ranges and the champion of the NO UCG campaign Mark Parnell, leader of the SA Greens.
On the Greens website the NO UCG Campaign has greater relative momentum than the NO Nuclear Waste Campaign, petition numbers approaching 500 in two months compared to the No Waste petition which has 1300 signatures over twelve months.
Greens leader Parnell to the Parliament SA says:
“Australia has been home to three principal UCG projects. They were all in Queensland and they have all ended in charges of environmental damage. Recently, major contamination of groundwater and soil caused by Linc Energy’s UCG trial project near Chinchilla, was described by the Queensland’s Environment Minister as “the biggest pollution event probably in Queensland’s history…certainly the biggest pollution investigation and prosecution in Queensland’s history”. This disaster resulted in a decision in April this year by the Queensland Government to ban UCG. Moratoriums are also in place in Scotland and Wales in the UK.
Despite the warning of the failed Queensland projects, there are now two projects planned for South Australia. One is the Leigh Creek Energy project, which involves people who were part of the disastrous Queensland Linc Energy project, and has already commenced exploration at Leigh Creek. The other project is the Arckaringa underground coal gasification project, which is a joint venture between Sino-Aus Energy Group and Altona Energy.”
Not specified in this background coverage of the issue is that previous environmental manager of Linc Energy, Justyn Peters, was prior to this position an environmental inspector with the Queensland EPA, a jaw dropping aside not investigated or reported on by mainstream media.
In a parliamentary speech given by Parnell early in the campaign he draws the connections between the past behaviour of the company :
“Like a bad zombie movie, the undead have come back to haunt us.
Members will remember Marathon Resources Limited. That is the cowboy mining company that was sent packing from the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary five years ago after trashing the natural environment. They are back. Quietly rebranded as Leigh Creek Energy Limited, they now want to get into the UCG business, that is, underground coal gasification. It is nasty, polluting and dangerous, which is why it has been banned in Queensland.
Over the last few weeks, I have been asking questions in parliament of the Minister for the Environment and also the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs about the proposal by Leigh Creek Energy to commence underground coal gasification in and around the former Leigh Creek coal mine. I think it is fair to say that this is a project that has flown under the radar so far, but it does represent a huge risk to our climate and also to the local environment.”
While the momentum now builds to have this experimental and evidently dangerous practice banned across the whole of Australia, the residents of the Flinders Ranges have voiced a clear message of NO UCG thanks to the government and the current proponent of the yet to be approved Leigh Creek Energy Project.
Business affiliations between the project management and the ill fated Linc Energy raises the stakes as the Queensland Government contends with the issues arising from the companies shrewd wind up to avoid paying the tab for what the Queensland Environment Minister dubbed the greatest environmental disaster in Queensland history. While the story of the historic and key prosecution was covered by the ABC and Queensland media there has been a media silence concerning the progress of the adjourned case which was to resume on October 19.
After months of uncertainty following legal challenges presented by the drilling of test holes on a prescribed Aboriginal Heritage site, Leigh Creek Energy has against the odds and the Act negotiated a work site clearance agreement with the Adnyamathanha Traditional Lands Association. However, despite this small and controversial step forward the market seems unimpressed and remains in the doldrums as global UCG operations are banned.
The requests for the Anggumathanha Camp Law Mob (ACLM) to the Minister to prosecute the company for damages to the protected site raises interesting questions concerning the Native Title process and the representation of one group that has site protection in mind versus another group ATLA that has something else in mind, contained within an agreement not accessible to the public. How such agreements come into place just a week after unanimous community agreement that NO UCG is wanted in the Flinders Ranges may bring the integrity of community consultations of a closed nature into question.
Why it’s taking so long for South Australia to follow the lead shown by the rest of Australia and the world is another question.
Local representative for the concerned Flinders Ranges Communities, Dan Van Holst Pellekaan, is reported as not showing an interest nor are any other members of the SA parliament putting their hands up so far to support the Greens Leader Parnell, to date a lone dog in parliament pursuing a course to protect the environment and the people of the state from another impending UCG disaster.
The National Day of Action which saw a crowd of over 3000 was well represented by the NO UCG Flinders Ranges Communities which distributed thousands of media releases reinforcing the message that while the Nuclear Waste horror looms overhead, UCG and fracking is happening on the ground right now.
Recent media in South Australia reporting the widespread concerns of the Flinders Ranges Communities:
The latest ABC media release is most interesting as the prior Enviromental Manager of Linc Energy, previously an EPA inspector is absent from the list?
A declining market interest in the proponents project appears to support the concerns of the Greens leader and the Flinders Communities:
Editorial correction ( Nov 3) – Apologies to readers and the Local Member Dan Van Holst Pellekan who, a reader claims, is assisting the local communities and has provided a copy of a letter (name withheld on request).