FARMLAND across the Western District is in the sights of coal seam gas mining developers, according to an environmental group.
Representatives of the Lock the Gate Alliance held their first public seminars in Warrnambool last night to inform south-west farmers about the potential dangers of allowing coal seam gas mining into the region.
The Friends of the Earth spin-off group claims vast areas of agricultural land surrounding Coleraine, Casterton and Merino will be targeted by mining corporations for coal seam exploration.
They believe listed energy company Planet Gas intends carrying out exploratory work on farmland north and west of Hamilton, although the corporation’s website does not specify whether any work will take place.
Environmentalists secured a win in August after Mecrus Resources announced it would write to the Department of Primary Industries, scrapping plans to look for coal and methane gas between Warrnambool and Colac.
Lock the Gate Alliance president Drew Hutton said any company intent on setting up coal seam gas mining in the south-west would remain silent about its endeavours for as long as possible.
He said the alliance was keen to alert south-west farmers about the intentions of mining developers.
“Nipping this type of mining in the bud is vital because if you leave it to the development stage, it’s too late to stop it,” Mr Hutton said.
“Both state and federal governments are not keen to intervene once a mining project has established itself because whichever company involved has already put in the time and money to start operating.
“That’s why we’re encouraging farmers to lock the gate because the time to take action is during the early stage.”
About 30 people attended last night’s Lock the Gate seminar at the Archie Graham Centre. Similar sessions will be held in Colac, Geelong and Melbourne this week.
Friends of the Earth spokesman Cam Walker said it was in the best interests of landholders to resist coal seam mining in the area.
He claimed methods used to secure mineral resources had a detrimental impact on underground water tables.
“Community pressure is an important part of stopping coal seam mining,” Mr Walker said.
“The Deans Marsh community took on Mantle Mining and won a few months back. Following that, Mecrus guaranteed they wouldn’t contact coal seam gas mining between Colac and Warrnambool, so a united response does work.”