Golden prospects for Mantle Mining

Coal explorations licences across the Latrobe Valley and South Gippsland have been cancelled to the great reception of local opposition.

Mantle Mining has announced it will no longer pursue licence renewals for six coal exploration licences in the region.

The licences covered a vast area of the Latrobe Valley and South Gippsland, including the surrounds of Mirboo North, Thorpdale, Narracan, Boolarra, Trafalgar East, Coalville, Hernes Oak, Traralgon and Callignee.

Mantle Mining executive director Rick Valenta said licences were relinquished about a month and a half ago with the company now focussing on gold.

Mr Valenta clarified the decision was not due to community opposition or the State Government’s commitment in September to put a permanent ban on all unconventional gas mining and fracking.

“The decision wasn’t affected by external factors,” he said.

“The main external factor was there is very little investment interest in brown coal and we couldn’t really see a lot of potential going forward. However, higher quality coal has enjoyed a bit of resurgence in the last little while.”

Mirboo North coal and CSG campaigners were “ecstatic” about the news after campaigning against the new green field coal mining for the past five years.

The community organisation led a campaign against new coal projects in the region by conducting a door-to-door survey in 2014 that asked residents to declare the area coal and gas-field free.

The survey received more than 96 per cent in the affirmative.

Three affected councils, including Baw Baw, Latrobe City and South Gippsland, also opposed the mining company proposals.

“Our communities have proved time and time again that our farming enterprises, tourism and all their ‘spin off’ industries outweigh a potential coal industry in our region,” Coal and CSG Free Mirboo North spokeswoman Marg Thomas said.

“We have protected our way of life and vibrant businesses from a polluting industry that has little benefit for our communities.”

Friends of the Earth community campaigner Ursula Alquier said the potential for water contamination, destruction of prime agricultural farmland and the human health impacts weighed heavily on many.

“There was no social licence or need for new coal mining in this area and it’s fantastic that this area no longer has to fight these mining interests,” Ms Alquier said.

“Agriculture and tourism will also benefit from this certainty so it’s a win for everyone.”

South Gippsland beef farmer Fergus O’Connor said having no further coal licences hanging over their heads gave great certainty to move forward with his farming operation.

“Agriculture is the backbone of our local economy and communities like ours should not have to constantly compete with pie in the sky mining proposals,” Mr O’Connor said.

“We really feel like Christmas has come early and we can now look forward to a coal and gas field free future.”