A seminar in Mudgee, New South Wales went though the complex legalities surrounding mining and coal seam gas law on Saturday.
Arranged by the non-profit Brothers and Sisters In Law group, the seminar was attended by landowners and legal experts, the Mudgee Guardian reported.
The seminar aimed to educate solicitors on coal mining and CSG extraction legislation. But farmers, community members, and members of action groups from the Southern Highlands, Hunter Valley, Liverpool Plains and the Mudgee area also were present.
Principal solicitor from EDO NSW Sue Higginson went through case studies including Rio Tinto’s Mt Thorley Warkworth coal mine.
Coal & Allied recently launched an appeal against a NSW Land and Environment Court’s verdict to overturn the Warkworth extension.
But it said it might be too late to save coal jobs at its Hunter Valley operations.
Seminar conductor Ian Coleman said the attendance level was proof of the importance of giving information to landowners on mining and CSG laws.
He hoped the range of community groups that were present would promote more networking.
“But for a handful of people who are working on behalf of their communities, there would be no community representation at all,” he said.
“It’s not a great exaggeration to say that the future of the land is in the hands of the producers of food and fibre to feed our planet.”
One of the speakers was mining and CSG officer Jess Harwood from the NSW Farmers Association.
She said a recent survey by the association found only 41.7 per cent of landowners felt comfortable managing land access agreement negotiations.
Sixty seven per cent of those surveyed said they lacked understanding of the negotiation procedure of access agreements with mining and CSG companies, while 28.8 per cent were unaware an access agreement was mandatory to start exploration activity on a piece of land.
“If not told of the right to legal assistance, they have to do it on their own and that’s quite a daunting process,” she said.
“Landholders have the right to legal advice paid for by the mining company and should engage a lawyer.
“A staggering amount of people who come to [NFA] workshops have no idea about their rights and sign contracts provided by the mining companies or rely on oral contracts.”
Harwood also noted potential land disputes that could crop up, pointing out that mineral and petrol exploration leases comprise 73 per cent of the state while farmers look after about 73 per cent of the state’s land.
The NSW Farmers Association has conducted seminars on access agreements in 18 mining regions in NSW and has also set up a hotline to answer landowners’ questions.
Scientist and engineer Professor Mary O’Kane recently suggested in an independent report
tougher regulation, harsher penalties for violations, and more environmental research to assuage community concerns surrounding CSG.
Senator Bill Heffernan spoke at a dinner on Saturday night and said laws needed to be stricter to safeguard agricultural water and land.
The NSW Government banned all CSG activity within two kilometres of residential and industrial areas earlier this year.
Premier Barry O’Farrell said under the new rules, suburbs, country towns and other urban areas would be “no-go-zones for CSG activities”.