PROPOSED coal mining projects in the heart of prime Darling Downs agricultural regions of Queensland have led the Catholic Church in Toowoomba diocese to join with the Anglican and Uniting churches in supporting threatened farming communities.
The Churches have issued a joint statement calling for a regional plan to identify those areas which should be mined and those which should be kept for sustainable agriculture and food production.
Media reports have indicated that the State Government claims that farming and mining can co-exist, and that it is developing policies for that to happen.
Two areas under consideration for coal mining are Felton just south-west of Toowoomba and the Haystack Plain district north-west of Dalby.
Diocesan executive officer of the Catholic Social Justice Commission Dr Mark Copland told The Catholic Leader last week that grave concerns were held for the future of communities in the regions as well as for the health of the environment if the State Government approved the projects.
Dr Copland said a diocesan review currently underway had identified widespread concerns on the impact of proposed mining on agricultural landholdings in centres including Jandowae and Chinchilla.
He will speak on the issue to the congregation of Cambooya-Greenmount on August 9 at the invitation of parish priest Missionary Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament Father Thomas Areekuzhy.
“There are concerns that the coal mines, if they go ahead, will have an irreversible impact on communities and the environment,” Dr Copland said.
“I’ll be discussing the nature of true development in terms of Catholic social teaching.
“Part of this discussion concerns the common good as opposed to individual good.
“What we are proposing is a respectful and genuine dialogue between the resources and the agricultural sectors.”
Friends of Felton president and local cropping and cattle farmer Rob McCreath, with whom Dr Copland recently met, said Church support on the issue of coal mining was “extremely valuable”.
“This is a huge social issue,” Mr McCreath said.
“It’s about the impact of coal mining on the cohesion of communities – some of the land under threat has been owned by farming families for more than 100 years.
The environmental impact of the mines will be massive with about 2800 hectares directly affected, Mr McCreath said.
Dr Copland emphasised that the Catholic and other Churches are keen to dialogue with the mining industry to explore the issue.
“To this end we will be shortly having discussions with one of the proponents of the mining projects,” he said.