Our Future: Coal mining’s relentless attack on water

If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck and it’s not raining then I am planning for an El Nino. As a farmer on Queensland’s Darling Downs, that means I can’t count on any useful rain until late November - and that’s following a long, dry year.

Farmers like me are fighting more than just the drought - we are facing relentless attacks on our precious water courtesy of our country’s coal mining industry.

In my backyard, it’s the expansion of the Acland coal mine that threatens our farms, our livelihoods and some of the best agricultural land in Australia.

We are not alone.

The federal government, whose new leader says addressing drought is his number one priority, has just waived a proper environmental assessment by scientists of the impact of Adani’s plan to extract billions of litres of Queensland river water.

This is an area where farmers are in the midst of severe drought and already relying on low levels of groundwater to survive. 

Politicians claim to be concerned about protecting farmers and the government has provided two million dollars in drought relief.

Yet, they continue to support coal mine production, which poses the biggest threat to farmers’ water supplies. Instead of developing a comprehensive plan to tackle climate change and protect groundwater, we’ve seen nothing but blind support for big miners by state and federal members.  

The decade-long uncertainty over the Acland coal mine expansion has destroyed our community and hit families hard.

Our hearts go out to all other farmers battling the twin threats of droughts and mines which will suck even more water from businesses.

I am not only a farmer - I’m also a father and grandfather. My life has been committed to leaving my country a little better for my family and leaving a legacy I can be proud of.

Drought relief is important and so too is long-term planning to support adaptation and mitigation on-farm.

But there’s only so much adapting we can do when we have governments putting mining interests before agriculture.

If the government actually cares about the future of agriculture, then we desperately need urgent action on climate change, a transition away from polluting industries and protection of our water supplies.

Only then will we have the chance to survive the extreme weather climate change brings.

Sid Plant is a Darling Downs farmer, grandfather and member of Farmers for Climate Action