The Great Artesian Basin: farmers aim to save it from mining

The Great Artesian Basin: farmers aim to save it from mining
Narrabri farmer Andrew Mullins with his family. Andrew put forward a motion at the NSW Farmers Annual Conference that called for a ban on coal exploration and mining that could impact the Great Artesian Basin

NSW Farmers member and Narrabri farmer Andrew Mullins ventured to Luna Park last week as part of a mission to stop coal exploration and mining on the Great Artesian Basin.

Andrew presented a motion to the NSW Farmers Annual Conference calling for the Association to lobby the NSW Government to prevent any further coal exploration or mining activity in the Great Artesian Basin region.

The motion was passed at the conference and will now be progressed by the new NSW Farmers Conservation and Resource Management committee.

Andrew cited the Gorman North Potential Release area south of Narrabri as an example, where Whitehaven Coal has recently applied for two exploration licenses. The Department of Regional NSW – Mining, Exploration and Geoscience is currently assessing the applications.

The NSW Government’s Strategic Statement on Coal Exploration and Mining in NSW designated the area as a ‘potential area for proactive release’. Nearby farmers like Andrew fear any mining in the area will seriously damage and contaminate the Great Artesian Basin.

“The big issue with it all is water,” Andrew says.

The Great Artesian Basin provides a vital source of water for farmers like Ranald Warby during times of drought

“This coal mine would be on top of the sandstone that is a recharge area for the Great Artesian Basin.”

“Some of the land involved would not be classed as Prime Agricultural land, but it would destroy the precious water resource underneath it. It’s just a ridiculous location for a coal mine.”

NSW Farmers member and Narrabri farmer Andrew Mullins

Andrew’s mixed cropping and livestock farm is on the western edge of Gorman North.

Andrew said The Great Artesian Basin is the lifeblood for many farmers and regional communities, especially during times of drought

“Without water, we have nothing. It’s that simple.”

“Coal mining is on its way out, so why would we open up a project like this for a short period to potentially destroy an important resource that will be needed well into the distant future.”

NSW Farmers member and Narrabri farmer Andrew Mullins

Andrew said a lack of consultation with the farming community has also raised concerns.

“This whole process seems to go ahead without anyone knowing about, that’s half the problem.

“I didn’t know anything about it until I started a bit of research to talk about protecting the Great Artesian Basin at the NSW Farmers Narrabri branch meeting. This area overlaps some of my property and the level of consultation has been zero.”

Great Artesian Basin- The facts

The Great Artesian Basin is the largest and deepest artesian basin in the world, stretching over 1,700,000 square kilometres.

Here are some other interesting facts:

  • The amount of water in the Basin is estimated at 64,900 million megalitres – enough to cover all the land on the planet in almost half a metre of water.
  • Its depth ranges 100m to 3,000m. The average water temperature is 30-50°C, but can reach up to 100°C at the surface.
  • The Basin’s significance as a water resource is largely due to its location – it underlies arid and semi-arid areas to the west of the Great Dividing Range.
  • Its springs have enabled Indigenous Australians to occupy dry inland areas of Australia for more than 40,000 years.
  • Water from the GAB sustains the lives of more than 180,000 people and 7,600 enterprises.
  • Before the capping of bores, about 95 per cent of the water supply was wasted due to evaporation and seepage in the open drains.

Read about farmers buying back mining land in the Liverpool Plains here.

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