November 5, 2018
The Kingaroy Concerned Citizens Group (KCCG) will call on the State Government to cancel Moreton Resources’ mineral development licence when it comes up for renewal next February.
The group said the lives of people living in or near MDL385 had effectively been put in limbo for the past decade since Moreton’s predecessor Cougar Energy was given a licence to develop an underground coal gasification (UCG) project.
That trial – and similar UCG projects by other companies – proved so problematic that in August 2017 the State Government banned any further UCG projects in Queensland.
Cougar Energy later changed its name to Moreton Resources and announced it wanted to build a coal mine instead.
“How long does a company need to determine if there’s coal and in the ground and start mining it?” KCCG spokesman John Dalton asked the group’s Annual General Meeting in Kingaroy last Friday night.
“The State Government should either cancel the lease or buy the properties of any people who want to leave.
“It is unfair ask people to put their lives on hold for this length of time.”
Moreton Resources’ Jason Elks told shareholders in October that an application to renew MDL385 – which expires on February 28, 2019 – had been lodged with the State Government.
The exploration permit for the former Cockatoo Coal tenement (EPC882) expires on September 26, 2020.
The AGM, held at the Kingaroy Town Common Hall, was attended by Member for Nanango Deb Frecklington, South Burnett Regional Council CEO Mark Pitt and about 38 other people.
It began with a review of the KCCG’s actions over the past year to raise awareness about the negative environmental and social impacts the group believes Moreton’s proposed coal mine could have.
This was followed by an analysis of Moreton Resource’s actions over the same time period.
The most significant were the company’s failure to deliver an Environmental Impact Statement to the Office of the Coordinator-General by the June 19 cut-off date; and the failure to shake off a $9 million tax debt in September.
(On October 8, Moreton CEO Terry Bourke informed the ASX the company had lodged an appeal with the Federal Court against the Administrative Appeals Tribunal finding over the ATO debt.)
Mr Dalton said documents the KCCG had obtained under Freedom Of Information laws appeared to indicate relations between the company and the State Government had broken down.
He also noted Moreton had reported a consolidated profit of $11.3 million for the past 12 months in September, despite having no revenue-earning operations.
This “profit” came from a revaluation of its Granite Belt Silver Project in Texas, Queensland, which the company had acquired for $10,003.
“From our standpoint it looks like Moreton’s project has suffered several major setbacks this year, and the State Government should allow the company’s mining lease to lapse,” he said.
Mr Dalton also questioned whether Moreton Resources’ statements to the ASX about the project’s progress could potentially mislead “mum and pop investors”.
Member for Nanango Deb Frecklington said she shared the group’s concerns that statements by the company that it was “rapidly advancing” its coal mine proposal didn’t seem accurate.
She said her support of the mining industry was well-known, however she did not support Moreton’s proposal because it was “the wrong mine in the wrong location”.
South Burnett Regional Council CEO Mark Pitt explained the process Council staff would use if Moreton Resources submitted a development application for its proposed mine to Council.
This would involve seeing how well the development fitted in with the region’s Planning Scheme.
Mr Pitt said the South Burnett Planning Scheme – like the State Planning Scheme – placed a high priority on the preservation of agricultural land.
He also noted that a proposal by Moreton Resources to use parts of the South Burnett Rail Trail to build a railway to transport coal to port also posed many potential issues.
But he emphasised Council officers were obliged to consider any development application in an unbiased way.
So while the Mayor and Councillors might have their own personal opinions, Council staff had none and his own role – if Moreton ever submitted an application for a development approval – was to ensure due process was followed.
However, he agreed that uncertainty surrounding Moreton’s project was “doing no one any good” and said the Council would like more engagement with Moreton Resources and community groups such as the KCCG in the future.
“We need good, hard facts,” Mr Pitt said.
A member of the Tingoora Rail Group, who attended a March meeting organised by the KCCG in Wondai, said his group’s members were alarmed by what they’d heard about the potential for coal trains to run past properties between Wooroolin and Wondai if Moreton’s plans went ahead.
He said his group had already held several meetings and was in the process of conducting community consultations on the attitudes of affected landholders, as well as gathering non-engagement declarations from landholders opposed to a new coal rail line.
Mr Dalton said the KCCG had invited Mines Minister Dr Anthony Lynham to visit the mining lease in person.
Minister Lynham has discretionary power to decide whether a mining lease is in the public interest and cancel it.
Mr Dalton said the Minister had declined the KCCG’s invitation on the grounds he was too busy to make the trip, but said be would be happy to see a delegation at his office in Brisbane.
The KCCG was reluctantly forced to turn down this counter-offer because it would involve many people giving up a day’s work and travelling six hours to Brisbane and back for what might turn out to be a brief chat.
Mrs Frecklington said the Minister had been appointed as Cherbourg’s “champion” in July 2016 and now frequently visited the town.
“Dr Lynham was in Cherbourg only last week,” Mrs Frecklington said.
“And if he came by plane he probably landed at Kingaroy Airport right next to Moreton’s mining lease.”
She suggested she could raise this with the Minister if everyone agreed.
The meeting then re-elected Gary Tessmann as President; Damien O’Sullivan as Vice-President; Marilyn Stevens as Secretary; Abigail Andersson as Treasurer; and John Dalton as PR spokesperson for 2017-2018.