Great Artesian Basin to take a millennia to recover from CSG
A speech delivered by MP Bruce Scott in the Federal Parliament on 24th November revealed that documents provided to Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Water Tony Burke (from inside his own Department) said it could take more than a millennia for the Great Artesian Basin to recover from the damage caused by the extraction of water associated with the coal seam gas.
Advice from the Water Group within Mr Burke's department said the companies had been "extremely conservative" in their estimates of how much water they would take from the Great Artesian Basin. The Minister's Department said it could be "at least 1000 years" before water levels recovered.
Download the advice from the Water Group:
This information was revealed in the Senate, and discussed in Mr Scott's speech, and the relative sections are extracted below:
I want to turn to my electorate now and I want to speak about the CSG ... and the LNG projects, coal seam methane gas and liquefied natural gas which is converted from coal seam methane gas.
Both these projects, which have recently been approved by the Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, have a significant stake in the landmass across the Surat and Bowen basins, particularly the Surat Basin in my own electorate. The issues are of concern to many of us, the landholders who hold the title deeds for the above land activities. We do have concerns about the coal seam gas process...
Since the Minister’s approval of these CSG projects, the one-offs I referred to – Santos and British Gas – we have seen tabled in the Senate a number of documents from the Water Group, which raises concerns about the long-term effects of CSG developments and their impact on the Great Artesian Basin. I want to refer to these documents.
The first one is the Water Group advice on the EPBC Act referrals, the QGC referral 2008/4399 and the Santos/Petronas referral 2008/4059, and comments on the AP LNG referral 2009/4974. These comments are based on information provided by the proponents up to the close of business on 3 September this year.
These are the comments by the Water Group, which were provided to the Minister from within his own Department prior to making these decisions. This is the concern I have with the comments that have come from the Water Group – and I know they are in draft form.
The comments say:
From all the information provided to date, including that from AP LNG, there is no indication when any of the systems affected by the CSG developments will return to pre-CSG conditions.
What they are referring to is when the underground water aquifers will return to their condition pre-CSG activities. They continue:
QGC (Queensland Gas) states that the Walloon Coal Measures will not begin to recover until 70 years after CSG production ceases.
Seventy years after! They will only then begin, according to this report, to recover, not fully recover. It says the data also:
shows that the Springbok, Hutton and Precipice Sandstones will not have recovered after 200 years.
I have to say that this is very alarming stuff. It goes on:
Whilst the residual drawdown is modelled to be quite small, a simple extrapolation for the Hutton Sandstone would indicate that recovery will take in the order of 1,000 years.
Interesting also is that:
Santos has requested that their modelling in the EIS not be used and its new modelling was not provided in time to be included in this assessment.
I wonder why they did not want their modelling that they put in the EIS to be used. Have they found some new data? Is the science not that good? It raises these concerns. This is an alarming comment:
From the AP LNG modelling, the Gubberamunda Sandstone (the lateral equivalent of the Hooray Sandstone) will not have returned to pre-CSG levels by 3100.
Therefore it can be concluded from the proponents’ modelling that the legacy effects of the CSG developments are considerable, with at least 1,000 years passing before this part of the Great Artesian Basin will return to pre-CSG levels.
Those are not my words; they are the words in this report from the Water Group, which was provided to the Minister prior to his making those decisions.
Madam Deputy Speaker Bird, as you would be aware, the Great Artesian Basin is the lifeblood of so many towns in western Queensland. When we talk about the Great Artesian Basin we talk about all of the different sandstone formations.
It is the lifeblood of the towns, for stock and domestic household use. This report really should be ringing alarm bells in the minister’s office. Whilst he has put on a number of significant restrictions and caps and taken what he would call, I suppose, a cautionary approach to his decisions, I think the Minister needs to explain why it is that this has been provided to him in draft form and yet he still has approved these projects with those conditions.
I know that my communities out in western Queensland are not convinced. When we read these reports, page after page after page of documents that have recently been tabled in the Senate, more alarm bells will ring.
It is clear that the neither the Federal nor the State Government is prepared to listen to the concerns of their constituents, nor to the science from within their own Departments.
This is precisely why we are calling for a moratorium on all future CSG activities until an independent peer-reviewed investigation into the long-term environmental, social and infrastructure consequences of the CSG industry in Queensland is undertaken.
- Sign the petition for a moratorium here.
- Support the farmers and landholders 'Locking the Gate' to mining companies.
- Stay in touch with us to find out more.