BRUCE and Annette Currie’s central Queensland cattle property Speculation is parched and drought-stricken, and cattle numbers have dwindled to about one-third but their greatest battle is with the mining industry.
At the best of times their life as graziers is hard and isolated – two hours drive along the Capricorn Highway to the nearest church in Barcaldine.
Like many dedicated Queensland farming families they have gritted their teeth and worked hard.
They sent their five, now-grown, children to boarding school at Downlands College in Toowoomba.
Right now the Curries are facing their biggest struggle for their livelihood.
They are locked in a battle to save their land, and the entire Galilee Basin region, west of Rockhampton, from proposed mega-mines, including the Adani project.
“I just can’t believe that they are going to destroy that country,” said Mrs Currie, who was born in Emerald, grew up in Brisbane attending Guardian Angels’ Catholic Church and Mt Carmel College in Wynnum, and is now passionate about preserving the land and the richness it could yield for future generations.
“Unfortunately the coal sits under some of Australia’s prime farming country.”
On July 4, the Curries lost an important legal battle when the Land Court in Brisbane handed down a ruling in favour of another mega-mine proposal – the Kevin’s Corner mine.
The Curries believe the $4.2 billion project part-owned by Gina Rinehart would have a disastrous impact on their precious groundwater.
The battle against the Galilee Basin mega-mines has created and galvanised a new, grassroots movement of farmers and conservationists, politicians across the spectrum, and church groups and non-believers.
They have protested publicly and loudly – marching down city streets, staging bank sit-ins, even invading TV studios to hand deliver #StopAdani protest notes to politicians.
Bruce and Annette Currie speaking to Lock The Gate Alliance (story continues after video):
The Catholic Justice and Peace Commission of Brisbane archdiocese is one of the groups to call on the Queensland and Federal governments to withdraw their support for the Adani development.
“While we recognise the importance of both governments encouraging economic opportunities which create employment, the evidence suggests that the proposed mine will not make a significant contribution to employment and economic prosperity,” the CJPC said in a May statement, endorsed by Catholic Earthcare Australia.
“Just as importantly, at a time when there is mounting evidence of enormous environmental damage caused by climate change, it is reckless for governments to permit development of more fossil fuel projects, especially the Adani mine which would be one of the largest coal mines in the world.
“We reject the greed of mining companies which has no thought for the enormous environmental, social and cultural consequences of their plans.”
The CJPC points to Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’ as an important touchstone on environment matters.
“He encouraged all of us to care for our planet by responding to the environmental problems we face,” the commission said.
“Pope Francis is showing the way not only for Catholics, but for all the people of our common home, the earth, when he tells us we need to phase out the use of fossil fuels quickly to avoid a worsening climate crisis.”
The Curries have long campaigned to protect their property and the surrounding Galilee Basin.
“It’s not necessarily the mining we object to … I just think there are other more sustainable and environmentally friendly ways of generating electricity,” Mrs Currie said.
They were key figures in challenging the Alpha Coal mine project.
Then two years ago, the Curries went to the Land Court in Brisbane to stop the proposed Kevin’s Corner coalmine project.
They argued that the groundwater demands would effectively destroy their livelihood.
However, in the latest judgment, Land Court member Wayne Cochrane overrode this argument and determined the mining lease should be granted.
“There is no basis upon which I should recommend refusal of the grant of the mining lease, notwithstanding that it will convert otherwise useful grazing land into a coalmine,” Mr Cochrane said in his judgment statement.
The Kevin’s Corner open-cut and underground coalmine, lies in the catchment of the Burdekin River which flows into wetlands and the Great Barrier Reef.
“Mining projects of this magnitude will have negative impacts and undesired consequences on the environment, particularly in the immediate vicinity of the mine. However I have come to the view that those consequences are outweighed by the benefits that will flow from the development of the mine,” Mr Cochrane said.
The $6 billion mine would create about 2500 jobs during construction and 1600 to 1800 during operations. It would run for about 40 years.
After the court decision, the Curries said they would keep fighting for their farm.
“If all of those mines get going in the Galilee Basin there will be a 267-kilometre strip of coal mining, and that is some of Australia’s best cattle country,” Mrs Currie said.
“I can’t help thinking what if the government had spent as much on establishing and supporting alternative energy in Queensland as it had on promoting mining, how much better off long term could we have been.”
Instead, Mr and Mrs Currie believe the Queensland Government has “rigged the system” against farmers by rolling out the red carpet for big mining companies like Adani.
Four months ago Adani was granted free and unlimited access to groundwater, under a permit that runs until 2077.
The Curries have joined almost 70,000 people to sign a petition organised by Longreach grazier Angus Emmott and the advocacy group Farmers for Climate Action demanding the Queensland Premier rescind the generous water license.
It is estimated the mine would draw 26 million litres of water per day from its pits. Over the lifespan of the mine that would total 355 billion litres of water.
“Nearly ninety per cent of Queensland is currently drought declared, so why are we giving an Indian billionaire access to unlimited groundwater for a new coalmine?” the petition questions.