Tues 18/10/2011 Nick Toscano, Melton Weekly and Moorabool Weekly
A MELBOURNE environmental lawyer will meet with worried Moorabool residents tonight to help them thwart plans to start open-cut coal mining in the area.
Up to 150 people are expected to hear Nick Croggan, of the non-profit Environment Defenders Office, explain the fine print about exploration licences, mining licences and the objection process.
Moorabool Environment Group secretary Deb Porter said she had organised the meeting after being flooded with phone calls from residents, asking about their rights and how they could prevent coal mining on their doorstep.
For two months, Mantle Mining has been drilling at four sites around Rowsley, Parwan and Maddingley in search of brown coal.
The Department of Primary Industries approved Mantle's exploration licence, covering a 38,000-hectare area across eastern Moorabool, but residents had not been aware of a public notice seeking community objections.
The exploration licence permits the company to search the area, but it would not be able to extract coal without applying for a mining licence.
Mr Croggan said the laws surrounding exploration licence applications were slack, and permits could often go unnoticed.
There's very little requirement to advertise. The only requirement is to put a small notice in the newspaper, which passes people by very easily, he said.
But applications for mining licences had slightly tighter regulations, giving people greater opportunity to object.
While the Mining Act does not specify grounds on which people can object, Mr Croggan said concerns often related to effects on the environment and farmland.
There are serious planning issues about mining where land would be better used for agricultural purposes, and landowners can seek that their land be exempt.
Many of the good areas for mining line up with the food-bowl areas and some of the prime farming land in the state.