Sunday, November 20, 2011

Coal projects under fresh scrutiny in Australia

Latest News - Australia Monday said all new coal seam gas (CSG) and large coal projects would face increased scientific scrutiny after a key lawmaker made it a condition of his approval for a contested mining tax.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard said there would be a "new focus on scientific evidence to build community confidence" in the fast-growing but controversial CSG industry, which is facing a public backlash in parts of Australia.

All future projects would be scrutinised by a new Aus$150 million (US$149.6 million) independent scientific committee to ensure they did not pose a risk to underground water sources before they could be approved, Gillard said.

"Coal seam gas and coal can bring huge opportunities, but to do so must maintain community confidence, especially in regard to the impact on water," the premier said in a statement.

"This can only be achieved by ensuring all environmental approvals and licensing decisions are made on the basis of transparent, objective scientific evidence."

Farmers, winegrowers and other landholders have spoken out against the emerging CSG industry due to concerns about its "fracking" extraction method -- under which high-pressure water and chemicals are used to split rockbeds.

Protesters have called for greater certainty about the environmental impacts of fracking, particularly on groundwater sources, before projects are approved.

The industry has said that the practice is safe and that CSG will be a vital part of the energy mix as the world looks for cleaner fuel sources.

Independent lawmaker Tony Windsor, a key member of Gillard's minority coalition government, has been vocal about CSG and large-scale mining projects in his rural, mostly agricultural electorate.

Windsor made scientific action on mining a condition of his support for Gillard's contentious tax on coal and iron ore profits, and secured Monday's promises from the government as the tax was debated in parliament.

The tax, to go to a vote this week, will apply to the extraordinary profits of major coal and iron ore miners at a rate of 30 percent.

It was watered down from 40 percent and a range of other concessions were made after an intense campaign from the powerful and wealthy mining industry.

Gillard said a new expert committee would advise the government on the scientific impacts of CSG and large coal mining projects "where they have significant impacts on water".

"This is an important development with Australia set to benefit from a strong coal mining and coal seam gas industry for years to come", she said.


Post a Comment

Copyright © 2011. Latest News . All Rights Reserved