Locals in the tiny outback town of Baralaba in Central Queensland have been fighting for years against a giant US company’s proposal to open a coal mine on prime agricultural land.
- Liberty Mutual no plans “at this stage” to progress with its environmental paperwork, effectively halting the project
- It is a win for the Save the Dawson community group, which lodged a complaint about the proposal to the United Nations
- The company missed the deadline to submit its environmental impact statement, but the Department of Environment and Science says it still has 12 months to submit
Now the company, Liberty Mutual, has revealed it is no longer pursuing the plan after a community group lodged a complaint with the United Nations for Responsible Investment.
The chair of community group Save the Dawson, Brett Coombe, said the mine would have been built on flood plains 500 metres away from the Dawson River, creating a contamination risk for water supplies to Baralaba and Woorabinda, a nearby Aboriginal community.
He said it would also have posed a risk to the Great Barrier Reef downstream.
“The agricultural community really needs to stand together and say, ‘There’s enough mines and gas stuff going on and we need to protect the really good stuff,'” Mr Coombe said.
Triumph of the 300
At last census Baralaba, 145 kilometres south-west from Rockhampton, had a population of 314.
Liberty Mutual’s website said the company employed an estimated 45,000 employees around the world.
It is also ranked 77th on Fortune 100’s list of the biggest corporations in the US.
But that was why Mr Coombe said he had been fighting against the proposal for almost three years.
“[We were] pretty ecstatic when we got the news that they hadn’t put the environmental impact statement in.
“I’m not jumping from the roof yet because with mines there’s a lot of different loopholes.”
No plans ‘at this stage’
A spokesperson for Liberty Mutual, the company behind the Mount Ramsay Coal Company, confirmed it had no plans “at this stage” to submit an environmental impact statement, effectively halting the proposal.
“As part of our ongoing investment processes, we’ve been evaluating alternatives for our Baralaba investment for some time,” the spokesperson said.
Mr Coombe said Save the Dawson surveyed the Baralaba community and found 97 per cent of people were against the mine.
“It really gave us a mandate to say we don’t need the mine,” he said.
“The local people don’t want it.”
He said he would like to see the land preserved for agricultural use for generations to come and “not just for the 40-year life of a mine.”
United Nations push
Save the Dawson group member Paul Stephenson said the group had pushed extremely hard for the outcome, including engaging with the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment (UNPRI).
The group lodged formal complaint with UNPRI, which Liberty Mutual is currently a signatory to.
Mr Stephenson said aside from destroying agricultural land, the mine’s proposal to be built so close to drinking water supply from the Dawson River was a human rights issue.
He said the proposal had been an ongoing issue in the community for 10 years.
The Department of Environment and Science confirmed the Liberty Mutual did not submit its environmental paperwork by the deadline last Friday, but it still had an additional 12 months to submit before the process lapsed.
Mr Stephenson said the lack of clarity surrounding the mine’s future was not good enough.
“It’s been ongoing for almost 10 years now,” he said.