The report, The Risks and Impacts of Coal Mine Subsidence on Irrigation Areas, was launched. It was prepared for Cotton Australia by soil scientist and environmental consultant Peter Bacon (Woodlots & Wetlands Pty Ltd).
Key findings from the report are:
- The mining industry's own research shows subsidence to be virtually an inevitable consequence of underground mining; that mining cannot be done economically without causing some subsidence; and there are no examples of underground mining that have not caused subsidence
- Mine subsidence threatens prime agricultural land by destabilising the soil. It may also pollute critical water resources and/or cause compaction or salinisation – both of which negatively impact cotton crop yields
- The impacts of subsidence are hard to predict, with damage potentially taking years to become apparent and in some cases after mining operations have ceased
- Regardless of the type of mining technique used, underground subsidence impacts spread beyond the boundaries of the mined area
- The precise nature of cotton farming, which involves considerable investment by growers in levelling fields for irrigation, means the potential negative impact for cotton is greater than other agricultural sectors
- Mine subsidence not only damages levelled fields, it also risks damage to roads, tracks, water storages and supply lines, and cotton industry infrastructure such as gins
Cotton Australia CEO Adam Kay says the report support’s the organisation’s calls for greater scrutiny and research into the impacts of mine subsidence on prime agricultural land.
“This research clearly demonstrates you can’t have mining under key agricultural areas without some form of subsidence impact,” Mr Kay says.
“It is of great concern to cotton growers and other farmers that mining activity in Australia is at an all-time high and yet forecasting the impacts of mining are so imprecise.”
“Cotton growers invest considerable sums of money in their land, not only to make cropping more efficient but also to preserve the soil for future use.”
“They will responsibly utilise the land long after mining concerns have moved on. Any degree of subsidence on land for irrigated agriculture is completely unacceptable.”
“It is important to note that on-farm agriculture infrastructure is not alone from the threat of mining subsidence. In Queensland, the gravity-fed irrigation infrastructure assets of SunWater, which are Government-owned, are also jeopardised in the Emerald district.”
“Until there is clear evidence to the contrary, we call on mining companies and governments to recognise the risks from mining – particularly longwalland bord & pillar operations.”
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