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Australian Greens to introduce coal seam gas bill

By Vienna Ma (Xinhua)

14:52, August 15, 2011

CANBERRA, Aug. 15 (Xinhua) -- The Australian Greens on Monday said the party will introduce legislation to parliament that would give farmers the right to deny coal seam gas miners access to their land.

Under the current law, minerals on private property are owned by the Crown, and landholders are required to allow mining companies access for exploration or mining.

Greens Senator Larissa Waters, who will introduce the legislation, said her legislation would be limited to coal seam gas miners only, and not to open-cut coal mines on prime agricultural land.

She said her party is concerned that coal seam gas mining risks polluting ground water and taking productive land out of the food production chain.

"We think that might get support in the parliament so we can deliver some results to those farmers on those beautiful soils of the Darling Downs and the great land in the Hunter Valley and across New South Wales," she told ABC Radio on Monday.

Senator Waters said the issue was particularly important in the Darling Downs food belt of southern Queensland, where about 40,000 drill holes were planned.

New South Wales Farmers Association president Fiona Simson said the plan was welcomed by the members of the association, and that farmers should also have the right to negotiate proper commercial terms for access to properties for all of these types of mining developments, including of course open-cut coal mining.

The Greens were hoping to win Coalition support for their legislation.

However, Abbott on Monday clarified that Coalition will not support Greens legislation, as land use decisions were " fundamentally a matter for the states."

"The Coalition won't support the Greens," Abbott told reporters in Canberra on Monday.

"The Greens are just against mining, full stop. They are particularly against the coal industry, which they want to close down."

Abbott said the mining industry was very important and should be "broadly supported," but he also added that mining should not be allowed to destroy prime agricultural land and mining companies should always respect the rights of farmers.

Meanwhile, federal Resources Minister Martin Ferguson said it was up to the states to regulate mining, but industry could do better in terms of negotiating with farmers.

"Some have done it better than others but the message has gone out: 'You need to lift your game and engage with farmers'," he said.

Coal seam gas makes up nearly a third of the gas supply on the east coast of Australia.

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