Risks of Coal and Unconventional Gas Mining

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The National Water Commission[1] has stated that coal seam gas mining risks having 'significant, long-term and adverse impacts' on water resources, including from depressurisation and contamination of aquifers. 




health-family.jpgHuman Health

Doctors for the Environment Australia[5] have identified numerous health risks from unconventional gas mining. A large study in rural Colorado recently showed an increase in the prevalence of heart defects in babies whose mothers lived within 10 miles of a gas well[6].  The distress and disempowerment to local communities from mining impacts leads to serious mental health impacts.



Coal and unconventional gas mining can lead to clearing, fragmentation, weed invasion, habitat and heritage loss, increased fire risk, contamination of land and water, pollution of creeks and rivers[8].  For example, the Maules Ck and Boggabri coal mines in Leard State Forest, NSW will clear more than 1,000 hectares of an ecosystem, Box-Gum woodland, which is considered critically endangered nationally.  Coal and gas mined here are major contributors to greenhouse gas emissions in Australia and overseas.


Coal and gas mining leads to uncertainty for landholders, who find it difficult to sell their land or make plans for the future.  There is major disruption to the social cohesion of towns and locals get driven out because they cannot compete in the rental market.  In the Western Downs of Qld, rents at one stage reached up to $3,000 per week due to CSG miners distorting the market[9].

family2.jpgAccording to the NSW Association of Mining Related Councils[10] the use of fly-in/fly-out workforces by the mining industry leads to a distortion in the population towards young men which leads to violence, conflict and alcohol abuse.  Some communities face direct encroachment of mines into towns/villages and are effectively evicted from their family homes, whilst others face major impacts on their quality of life from noise, light and dust.




[1] National Water Commission, ‘The Coal Seam Gas and water challenge’, December 2010.

[2] http://www.planning.nsw.gov.au/planningsystem/pdf/report_southern_coalfields_final_jul08.pdf

[3] http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/aug/16/hunter-valley-mines-horse-studs

[4] http://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/Prod/parlment/committee.nsf/0/318a94f2301a0b2fca2579f1001419e5/$FILE/Report%2035%20-%20Coal%20seam%20gas.pdf

[5] http://dea.org.au/news/article/the_mining_and_burning_of_coal_effects_on_health_and_the_environment which references this article https://www.mja.com.au/journal/2011/195/6/mining-and-burning-coal-effects-health-and-environment

[6] Lisa M. McKenzie,1 Ruixin Guo,2 Roxana Z. Witter,1 David A. Savitz,3 Lee S. Newman,1 and John L. Adgate1.  Birth Outcomes and Maternal Residential Proximity to Natural Gas Development in Rural Colorado.  Environ Health Perspect; DOI:10.1289/ehp.1306722

[7] The Australia Institute.  2011.  Mining the Truth:  The Rhetoric and Reality of the Commodities Boom.  Institute Paper Number 7.

[8] Nature Conservation Council of NSW. 2011.  Natural Icons Under Threat.

[9] http://www.thechronicle.com.au/news/pressure-on-in-western-downs/1863872/

[10] NSW Association of Mining Related Councils.  Submission to the House of Representatives Inquiry into Fly-in/Fly-out and Drive-in/Drive Out Mining Operations.   http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/House_of_Representatives_Committees?url=/ra/fifodido/subs.htm