Thursday, 18 July 2013

‘Mining captures politics’ – author claims

By John Mikkelsen

GOVERNMENTS change but the politics surrounding mining and resource developments don’t, according to the author of a controversial  new book about to be launched in Gladstone.

‘Road to Exploitation’ subtitled ‘Political Capture by Mining in Queensland’ follows years of pains-taking research and writing by  long-term environmental activist and former Mt Larcom resident, Alec Lucke.

 It will be released at an invitational and public book launch party at the Gladstone Art Gallery, 2 pm  Friday (July 19). Lucke describes his work as partly autobiographical, and human interest. He said yesterday:

“This historical account and social commentary on mining and industrialisation is a once in a lifetime publication.

Author and activist, Alec Lucke.

“The book authenticates not only landholders’ concerns about coal and CSG's unacceptable impacts upon their strategic cropping land and aquifers, but also concerns about damage to Gladstone Harbour's ecology through examples of sweetheart deals entered into by Cabinet that bound the government's regulatory and administrative agencies to policies of minimum compliance, lack of regulatory enforcement, false benchmarking of the science and eventually, abandonment of co-existence with behind the scenes resignation of unavoidable impacts.

“The book's contents and documentation justify the title and demonstrate this principle: Capture executive government in Queensland and the regulatory and administrative processes are captured as well”.

Lucke  says the book serves as both an historical record and  a ‘precautionary manual’. By example, it  authenticates current concerns about the Coal Seam Gas and Gladstone Harbour controversies while delving back to  Mt Larcom district’s pioneering era and the later development of limestone mining  in the 1970’s.

“The Mt Larcom Mining Protest Group opposed the entry of an open cut limestone mine and cement facility into their dairying and farming district.

“With the limestone resource prioritised for cement manufacture and wider industrial applications, mining began in 1979 and the protest group ceased to function in the early 1980s”.

From 1980 to 1995, the book provides social commentary on  industrialisation, local politics, regional organisations and individual public profiles.

“In 1995, the government cancelled Queensland Cement Ltd's coral dredging leases in Moreton Bay and committed to an incentive package for trebling of the East End Mine, a railway line and new cement kiln at Fisherman's landing.
“A fast-tracked  Impact Assessment Study for a  $220m expansion triggered the formation of  the East End Mine Action Group (EEMAG) and coincided with  rookie Independent Member for Gladstone Hon Liz Cunningham’s  balance of power support for the Borbidge coalition government.

 “With the water monitoring data collected but not analysed for 15 years, EEMAG challenged the State's pre-emptive approvals and as controversy raged, local real estate values and saleability collapsed as landholders contested the science and  fought for compensation and replacement water supplies under 'make good' provisions.

“This narrative explores the dynamics of protest groups and reflects upon the dogged persistence and commendable social justice ideals of experts independent of the government or company whose professional opinions were officially disregarded.

“It tells of landholder's conflict with industrial development and their distress as their  precious water was discharged continuously as waste; it outlines the group's philosophical commitments, negotiations and legal and political dilemma as they won replacement water supplies and sought recognition that their small farms, lifestyles and the environment were irreversibly damaged. It chronicles the demise of farming and the ironic circumstances that eventually restored district values… 

“The EEMAG / East End Mine / Regulating Agencies dispute continues with the interests of the Gladstone industrial model and a mine privately owned by the world's largest cement company placed ahead of other stakeholders, the district's progress and the environment,” Lucke claims.

His narrative in print and ebook versions quotes from 170 documents many obtained under FOI, and provides electronic links to 74 otherwise publicly unavailable files.


  1. Australia’s Mining Legacies by Gavin M. Mudd is an essay published this month at Arena. The essay doesn't cover Government involvement in miming approval or regulation enforcement but has the central theme of mining waste. On example is from the same region as mentioned in the post above; waste from the Mt Morgan mine.

    "The gold-copper mine of Mt Morgan—the mountain of gold—was so rich in its early 1880s–90s that the original investors went on to found the Walter & Eliza Hall Institute for Medical Research andinvest in oil exploration in Persia, leading to the Anglo-Persian Oil Company which was later to become British Petroleum (BP). Mining at Mt Morgan, just 45 kilometres west of Rockhampton, lasted from 1882 to 1982—a rare feat to last a century, but the mine was never rehabilitated and continues to cause extreme AMD pollution of the Dee River, which is a minor tributary of the mighty Fitzroy River (the Dee is about 0.5 per cent of the Fitzroy’s annual flow). Once mining in the open cut stopped, AMD-rich waters began to fill the open cut. To be fair the Queensland government invested in detailed technical studies in the late 1990s to early 2000s to examine rehabilitation options – and has even built and operates pit water treatment facilities (the current government has not slashed this funding for Mt Morgan either, although in reality the current funding is minimal compared to the scale of the problems). But in early 2013, the inevitable happened – a massive storm swept through the region and for the first time in history the pit over-flowed"

    As in the post above the rise of community protest groups is mentioned in Dr Gavin Mudd's essay.

    "The Australian mining industry has grown dramatically in the past sixty years to be a major export-driven industry. Based on our extensive mineral resource base, almost all commodities could be expected to have a bright future, but one of the major issues and constraints which already faces the industry and will increasingly dominate public debate is mine wastes and their management. In fact, such issues were already documented by German scholar Georgius Agricola in his famous 1556 book De Re Metallica"

    "Increasingly, the Australian mining industry will be forced to address mine waste either by regulation or by social opposition. In the digital age of the internet, it is even easier to document mine waste impacts, or for industry and government to make monitoring and rehabilitation data publicly available and even incorporate it into mapping systems (like they do for geoscience and mineral exploration already)."

  2. The government also approved mine releases into the Fitzroy system during the floods earlier this year Dale. A lot of dead fish showed up in the lower reaches around Rockhampton but the official word was they died from lack of oxygen as a result of the flood, not from toxic chemicals, and the Rocky water supply taken from the Fitzroy was safe to drink. Not surprisingly many people there drink bottled water or tank water instead.

  3. Congratulations Mikko for the publishing of this article on the Online Opinion blog site

  4. Thanks Dale will republish here as its a new article


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