EDITORIAL:  Extraction issue has to be investigated

THE impact of large-scale, 21st-century-style resource extraction on nearby residents is an issue that governments haven’t addressed.

People can suffer in many ways when extractive operations begin operating near their homes. Noise, dust, fouled water, vibration, bright lights at night and heavy vehicle traffic are the most obvious issues.

The long-suffering village of Camberwell provides a good case study of pressures applied to communities by mining companies and government agencies. Camberwell residents were subjected to all the obvious problems cited above, in addition to some particular issues including the loss of their long-standing village common, the alleged pollution of Glennies Creek and possible vibration damage to their historic church.

But one of the most emotively argued complaints from some residents related to pure economics. It was impossible, they said, to relocate to properties as good as their own had been before the mines appeared with the compensation the mining companies had offered.

The impact of coal on property values can obviously be a two-edged sword.

The Independent Commission Against Corruption is hearing allegations that some people may have profited immensely by acquiring properties before it became widely known that coal exploration licences were about to be granted over the land in question.

Clearly, in that instance, values rose markedly when the news of the licences became public.

But for many who use their land for farming or who have bought it intending to retire peacefully in a rural setting, proposals for nearby mining or exploration can be major destroyers of value.

It’s an unfair situation for many affected residents who live with the stress and uncertainty that comes with having mining and exploration on their doorsteps.

Critics argue, reasonably, that the government should have tackled these issues as part of its much-vaunted but deeply disappointing strategic land use plan – intended to reconcile the needs of mining and other land uses. 

Its promise to belatedly address the problems faced by residential land-owners, as a kind of appendix to the earlier plan, may hardly inspire much hope among those seeking relief.

The bottom line is that the government, as a promoter and direct financial beneficiary of mining and resource exploration, should acknowledge its obligation to ensure that pre-existing residents of areas earmarked to be taken over by the extraction industries are not unfairly disadvantaged.

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