Farming and mining together—an approach that resolves the issues created by the mining of coal seam gas (csg) in a way that all parties win.
There are many stakeholders who hold strongly divergent positions with high levels of intense emotion. Some of these concerns are detailed below followed by an outline of a solution that has the potential to deliver peace of mind to all stakeholders and the sustainable maximisation of land production for all parties, in other words, a win–win solution.
Farmers: are worried about loss of productivity and economic amenity and rights over their land; they fear severe environmental consequences as a result of the extraction processes associated with csg extraction such as:
cross contamination of aquifers;
disposal of saline waste water; and depressurisation of aquifers.
All of which are natural and legitimate concerns but are not insurmountable.
Miners: are concerned about farmers’ worries and how they can resolve possible conflicts with them and the community at large to everyone’s benefit.
Community: fears possible environmental consequences of the extraction process and its impact on their social and economic situation.
Environmental groups: are concerned about the safe practices of the miners and the possible impacts on the surrounding land and groundwater water supply.
Politicians/state and federal: are naturally keen to represent their community interests, which include the significant potential economic benefits of the csg activity, but are also fearful of the environmental risks posed by the process.
They are also required to enact the current legislation even though they may be uncertain of its practical application.
A potential solution
A group of companies has joined forces to develop an approach to resolve these issues which will deliver peace of mind to all stakeholders and the sustainable maximisation of land production for all parties.
How would this work?
- Facilitate a properly conducted mediation process between the farmers, gas companies, the local communities and environmental groups;
a. Use the issues management and community consultation skills of Wilkinson PR and Environmental Earth Sciences International to defuse the intense feelings currently running between the stakeholder groups.
- Deliver a mining plan which achieves both maximisation of farm production and minimisation of environmental risk;
a. Use the skills of 3D-Ag to produce a whole farm management plan. Whole farm management is a philosophy that places the people and the natural resources of a property at the heart of business management. It considers that an impact anywhere in the system has implications for the whole system.
csg extraction, if properly planned for, does not need to have an overall negative impact on the farming business.
The key to success is to have land owners and miners able to advise of their needs and for a third party to develop a layout that enables the farm and the gas company to go about their business in a more harmonious and sustainable fashion.
b. Use the expertise of Environmental Earth Sciences in the field of hydrogeology, hydro-geochemistry, geochemistry and soil science to audit the plans and processes proposed by the miners to extract coal seam gas. As Australia moves into a new regulatory and physical environment as a result of climate change, the harnessing of unconventional gas reserves needs to consider the impacts on our groundwater resources. Despite using groundwater in Australia for well over 125 years, our understanding of the current impacts is limited, let alone those of csg. All the key factors regarding groundwater and csg must considered and an appropriate risk management plan developed.
- Ensure that the affected areas are economically enriched;
a. Use the legal expertise of Hunt and Hunt, if required, to ensure fair compensation for loss of any amenity and that doesn’t become an obstacle that prevents the miners from achieving their economic gains, which will, in turn, provide jobs in the region and potential economic benefits for the whole community.
- Showcase the benefits to the politicians;
a. Use Wilkinson PR’s network and skills to ensure that the win–win benefits are highlighted to all relevant parties and assist the politicians to demonstrate how they are helping their constituencies.