AgForce CEO Mike Guerin (Photo: AgForce)

March 16, 2024

AgForce has launched legal action in the Federal Court in a bid to stop miner Glencore from pumping waste into the Great Artesian Basin.

CEO Michael Guerin said the peak rural body had been left with no other option.

Glencore has proposed a trial to capture carbon dioxide created at the Millmerran coal-fired power station.

The gas would be liquified and transported by road to a storage well near Moonie, then injected into an aquifer about 2.3km underground.

Glencore says 330,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide would be injected into a “high-fluoride, brackish water aquifer” over three years.

“The impacts on the (Precipice Sandstone) aquifer are minor and local,” a company statement released in November said.

However, AgForce – Queensland’s peak rural organisation – strongly disagrees.

AgForce is seeking a judicial review of the Federal Environment Department decision on February 9, 2022, which determined the Glencore proposal was not captured by the matters of national environmental significance in the EPBC Act.

Mr Guerin said negotiations with government ministers had failed to make progress about the urgency of the situation.

“It’s not overstating to say that confidence in our food supply is at genuine risk because of the current proposal from Glencore,” Mr Guerin said.

“Lead and arsenic could enter the water of the Great Artesian Basin, where it would be then taken up by animals and plants in our food-growing systems, entering our food supply chain and consumed by us and our children in the food we buy.”

It’s the first time AgForce has taken legal action in this way, which Mr Guerin says underlines the gravity of the situation.

“We’ve got one of the best environmental assets in the world in the Great Artesian Basin – a huge body of water stretching across 30 per cent of Australia’s landscape under four Australian States and Territories and relied on by many in our vast country,” he said.

“That the idea was even conceived beggars belief, but that it is most of the way through the approvals process is truly staggering and simply unacceptable.

“We’ve liaised with Federal Government ministers but got nowhere.  We’re mystified by the lack of engagement by politicians of all political persuasions, and the media silence to date is baffling.

“Court is the last place we want to be but there’s too much at stake not to put our members’ money into this federal court case, despite the risks and costs associated with it.

“Communities are angry, frustrated and deeply concerned.  That’s why we have taken such strong action to underwrite and lead legal proceedings.

“It’s hard to imagine the support would be the same if Glencore proposed pumping industrial waste into Sydney Harbour or the Great Barrier Reef.  Yet, here we are very close to Glencore having all the approvals it needs to do exactly that to the Great Artesian Basin.

“Let there be no doubt, one of our greatest concerns about this proposed ‘pilot’ by Glencore is that it is not reversible.

“If it damages our ancient and reliable water source in the way we expect – and it proves what is already abundantly clear to AgForce – you cannot simply reverse the process.

“We will have dirty emissions from a coal fired power station circulating forever in our Great Artesian Basin, without remedy.”


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