Although coal continues to play a fundamental role in the economic matrix of Australia, particularly as a primary energy source as well as a leading foreign exchange earner, it is now undeniable that the expansion of the coal mining industry in the country can no longer be said to be a foundation for sustainable economy (Evans, 2010).
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Indeed, this expansion, coupled with the introduction of new mining technologies such as coal seam gas (CSG), have increasingly placed pressure on local and regional communities and environments, and more than doubled the extent, scope, magnitude, and profile of the compounding impacts.
Today, more than ever before, agricultural producers in coal mining states of Australia, particularly in Queensland and NSW, are facing a bleak ecological future as coal seam gas mining companies descend on their food producing land for explorative as well as for mining purposes.
In spite of the fact that these agricultural producers are responsible for bringing significant income to state and local budgets, and despite the fact that the agricultural producers are personally or cooperatively responsible for decreasing the dependence of Australia on imported food, it is disturbing to note that legal and environmental trajectories in the country, in large part support the mining industry to the detriment of the agricultural sector (Franks, et al, 2011).
In terms of conceptual definitions, agricultural producers are generally farmers and industries who produce and supply farm-related products, implying that they are primary stakeholders in as far as the water resource is concerned, including the withdrawal, use, and discharge of this vital resource.
The definition of the term ‘agricultural producers’ stakeholder’, therefore, takes into consideration the fact that water is necessary for life and, as such, all living things must be enjoined together as stakeholders in protecting and conserving this important resource for without it there could be no life in the first instance (Wingo, 2001; Evans, 2010). The reasons why agricultural producers are opposed to CSG mining are many and varied.
To start with, it is generally feared that the CSG fracking process, which basically entails the injection of environmentally depleting chemicals, water and sand at extremely high pressures to fracture underground rock and release gas, will not only contaminate underground water and productive agricultural soil, but will overstretch environmental, social, human, and economic systems in the affected regions in addition to creating more health-related challenges (Coal Seam Gas News, 2011; Franks et al, 2011).
The problem for the agricultural producers in Australia is further complicated by weak and ineffective legislations, particularly the law that gives mining companies the leeway to enter a property and start drilling since the farmers only own the top soil and ground surface, but do not have control over the subsoil and the mineral deposits below.
Lastly, it is a well known fact that agricultural producers in the context of this topic are indeed categorized into groups that can be expected to share comparable goals and objectives with regard to agricultural water use and water resource policies (Wingo, 2001; Evans, 2010). Consequently, there exist several categories of agricultural producers in Australia, namely poultry and eggs, grains and oilseeds, dairy farming, livestock/red meats, and horticulture (Yenchen & Wikinson, 2000).
It is imperative to note that all these categories of agricultural producers depend on the availability of water to engage in farming and other agricultural practices. Sustainably conserving and managing this vital resource, therefore, becomes a prerogative rather than an exemption
List of References
Coal Seam Gas News (2011). Farmers can refuse CSG miners under Greens Bill. Web.
Evans, G (2010). A Rising Tide: Linking Local and Global Climate Justice. Journal of Australian Political Economy, Issue 66, pp 199-221.
Franks, D.M., Brereton, D., & Moran, C.J (2010). Managing the Cumulative Impacts of Coal Mining or Regional Communities and Environments in Australia. Impact Assessment & Project Appraisal, Vol. 28, Issue 4, pp 299-312.
Wingo, A (2010). Stakeholders. Viewed <http://wingolog.org/projects/water/html/node8.html> .
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Yenchen, D., & Wikinson, D (2000). Resetting the Compass: Australia’s Journey towards Sustainability. Campbell: CSIRO Publishing.