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Bathurst Burr: There are 26,000 drill holes polluting the Murray and Darling rivers

Contaminated water escaping into the East Pilliga State Forest. This water linked up with water from the overflow at Dewhurst 17H. Water from here runs into Jacks Creek and ultimately into the Namoi Catchment which feeds into the Murray?Darling Basin. Note also that this site is unfenced – only steel posts with one very low wire was put around this site to protect native animals. Photo by Tony Pickard

By Michael Mobbs

The waste and pollution from 26,000 gas and coal drills holes is polluting the rivers in the Murray Darling system.

Miners are drilling 26,000 exploratory holes to assess how much coal and gas there is to mine in over 25,000 hectares of farming land in these catchments.

Photos taken of drill holes prove the pollution.

In Australian cities, sales in the billions of dollars are rapturously announced of these mines.

A $69 billion dollar coal sale, for example, was announced last week by Queensland billionaire Clive Palmer (although doubt has since been cast about the validity of this deal).

About 200 litres of water is used to dig a tonne of coal. To dig the 30 million tonnes of coal expected to be mined each year will take about 60 million litres of water a year for the next 20 years. (1)

In his press release Mr Palmer says: “The best years of this state are yet to come.” (2) That will be a relief for the rivers and the farmers who will lose access to the water that will be used to mine such coal and gas.

For every tonne of coal sold the state governments take a tax, and their income from coal and gas sales is expected to be some $40 billion in NSW and Queensland; see January 2010 Burr – www.thefifthestate.com.au/archives/8442 .

Meanwhile, out in the Aussie bush, farms are being deprived of water to grow food and stock, rivers are being robbed of water that flowed into them or the water that still flows there is being polluted with the lubricants, additives and potions the miners use when they dig their exploration holes and their huge mines.

Where are the regulators?

Well, they’re just down the corridor from the mining agencies which award the mining leases, and a little further down the corridor is the real governing force, the state treasury office which wants the royalties.

Where are the politicians?

Yes, well; when was the last time anyone can remember when Country Labor or the National Party put farmers or rivers first over miners?

It’s time to rename the Aussie bush: “Out of sight, out of mind” is a more accurate description.

Who will speak for our bush, our farms, our rivers?

History has the answer.

In London, in 1878 the politicians found they could not take a cup of tea on the terrace of parliament house at Westminster without their sense of smell being offended by the sewage stench from the River Thames flowing beside the building. So they passed a law requiring no raw sewage to be discharged to it. All other rivers in England were ignored by the law. The River Thames was cleaned up while the rest the country’s rivers suffered continuing sewage; the legislators’ noses constantly enforcing the law they made to look after their river.

It’s unlikely a politician in government and government regulators will speak or act for the farms and the rivers.

Bye bye, Darling, bye bye Murray, my lovely rivers, and bye bye you farmers atop coal and gas: you’re gone, as sure as the 26,000 exploration holes are going to be dug, and the mines that will follow them.

(1) http://www.csrm.uq.edu.au/docs/MCA_SOTA.pdf

Michael Mobbs is a sustainability coach who works with developers, governments and communities to design and obtain approvals for houses, units and subdivisions. He is based in the inner Sydney suburb of Chippendale, where in 1996 he pioneered the conversion of his inner city terrace into a sustainable house, which has now been disconnected to mains water and sewerage and is powered by solar energy. www.sustainablehouse.com.au

8 February, 2010

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