Calls for ‘guidance and support’

Gippsland residents against mining in their communities have taken their fight to local and state governments. 

Since its announcement to the Australian Stock Exchange in June, minerals exploration company Mantle Mining Corporation had applied for two new tenements in Callignee and Mirboo North, concerned residents have campaigned in support of a moratorium until further information about the economic, social and environmental impact of mining exploration is revealed. 

In a bid to garner Latrobe City Council support, Boolarra resident Chelsea Stewart expressed her fears of the impact of mining exploration to a packed chamber at Monday night’s council meeting.

“We just want to have a voice and see what regulations are in place to protect us,” Ms Stewart said. 

Tabled at the meeting was a petition which called for council’s “guidance and support”.

She said residents were seeking council’s support for a moratorium on any new coal or unconventional gas operations in Latrobe City until “comprehensive credible and independent investigations” had been done into possible impacts on water resources, farmland, food security and local communities. 

Ms Stewart said (her) purpose of speaking was to inform council about residents’ fears while “opening the lines of communication” between the townships and councillors. 

“We have heard stories about mining explorations in New South Wales and Queensland that destroy towns and we don’t want that to happen here,” she said. 

“We want to know who will regulate the industry and who will protect us from a whole lot of things that could happen.”

Despite initial exploration licences being issued earlier this year, Ms Stewart said the issue had recently re-ignited due to a lack of consultation with residents. 

“Why we are up in arms is because we are only just realising what is happening. This is our main point right from the beginning, there is no community consultation, we didn’t know anything about it, we haven’t been informed and we haven’t been consulted,” he said.

Echoing those concerns was Latrobe City councillor Lisa Price, who said it was an area council needed to investigate further. 

Cr Price said Latrobe City needed to “take a position on this”, and advocate on behalf of the community.

In May, Latrobe City Council voted in support of the Municipal Association of Victoria’s move to establish a Coal Seam Gas Working Party, in conjunction with the Department of Primary Industries.

The motion also supported the MAV proposal to lobby the State Government to establish a parliamentary committee on coal seam gas. However, State Member for Morwell Russell Northe attempted to ease concerns and reminded residents the Boolarra and Callignee exploration licences were not for coal seam gas.

Despite not supporting a moratorium, Mr Northe said he had written to Mantle Mining urging it to reconsider its application, as well as tabled petitions in parliament. 

“The government stance has not changed, there is no moratorium that the government has spoken about; whether it is being considered that is a matter for the minister and the government,” Mr Northe said.

He agreed current exploration licence regulations needed to be reviewed. 

“The whole process needs improvement but the State Government is putting in place a number of measures to improve the system that has existed for many years,” he said.

“The facts are that when one applies for an exploration licence the applicant is only obliged in part to advertise in a local and state paper once. 

“For many people that is not sufficient.”