With the fires at Hazelwood Coal Mine still burning, Lock The Gate has seized the opportunity to warn the Queensland town of Ipswich of the risk of setting up a new mine so close to the town.
The New Chum mine, proposed by lease owner Oxley Plant Sales, received environmental approval in January to the chagrin of local council.
Lock The gate president Drew Hutton said that the mine, which is planned for a site 5 kilometres from the town centre and 550 metres from homes, could cause health and environmental risks similar to those currently experienced at Morwell.
“The Morwell coal fire is the perfect example of why open-cut coal mines should not be allowed near where people live,” Hutton said.
“Particulates from coal, especially fine matter, are a major health hazard even if there’s not a fire… but the risks rise exponentially once there’s a fire.”
The Hazelwood coal mine has been on fire since it caught alight from a grass fire on February 29, and has been polluting the atmosphere above the nearby town of Morwell, causing medical experts to warn those living nearby to evacuate.
Queensland mines minister Andrew Cripps said the comments from Hutton were “misleading and alarmist”.
"Contrary to claims by Lock The Gate, the potential for a Hazelwood mine fire to occur at a Queensland coalmine is remote," Mr Cripps said.
"Victorian coalmines, including the Hazelwood mine, produce brown coal (lignite) which is easier to ignite.
"It is also presently understood the Morwell fire stemmed from a nearby bushfire and was not the result of spontaneous combustion in the brown coal seam.
"Queensland produces black coal which is more tightly structured, contains less volatile matter and not easily ignited."
Cripps said he expected people in Ipswich would not be misled by Lock The Gate.
"I'm confident that the good people of Ipswich, who have lived around and worked in the coal mining industry for a very long time, will not be fooled by Mr Hutton's irresponsible and exaggerated claims.
Ipswich City Council has already expressed their anger over the mine’s approval, saying it has been left in the dark throughout the proposal and approval process.
Deputy mayor Victor Attwood said the council should have more say about the mining activity.
"We should be able to avoid what I believe is a totally inappropriate place for a mine,” he said.
Rural councillor David Pahlke said coal mining should not be allowed in residential areas.
"The State Government's decision-making process overrides the council. We have no say in it,” he said.
"The sad thing is whoever is in power; whatever side of politics, they do the same. They don't listen to the people. It's sad.”
Ipswich Mayor Paul Pisasale said the City of Ipswich is pro-development, but not at the expense of the community.
"One of the things the council prides itself on is community consultation.
"When I see things like this happen I think no wonder the public gets upset," he said.