Deans Marsh coal project
|This article is part of the CoalSwarm coverage of Victoria and coal|
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The Deans Marsh coal project was a proposal by Mantle Mining, a small mineral exploration company, to explore for coal over an area of approximately 499km2 near Deans Marsh. Deans Marsh, approximately 50 kilometres west of Geelong, adjoins the Otways National Park.
In June 2011 Mantle announced that it had applied for a coal exploration licence, EL 5367, over what its described as "the historic brown coalfields named Deans Marsh and Wensleydale." In its announcement Mantle stated that the Deans Marsh coalfield, with a "9m thick seam with 18m of overburden was worked from 1922 variably through to 1950" while the Wensleydale coalfield with a "40m thick seam with 20m of overburden was worked from 1921 variably through to 1959."
In its announcement Mantle claimed that it "considers the potential for discovery of additional brown coal deposits and extensions of the historic areas to be very high" and that is was "seeking to apply brown coal upgrade technology in order to develop a new coal export industry."
Opposition to coal project
It wasn't until several weeks after the application that the proposal gained widespread media attention. The Geelong Advertiser reported that Victorian Greens senator Richard Di Natale, who lives in Deans Marsh, was astonished by the proposal. "It's absolutely crazy stuff to contemplate, this has the potential to do a lot of environmental damage. We've just managed to get logging out of the Otways and now they want to turn it into a coal mine," he said.
Greens state leader, Greg Barber, described the project as "environmentally disastrous." The project, he said, "would be a strip mining style operation with a huge energy input."
A Deans Marsh farmer, Andrew Stewart, told the Weekly Times that "there's a fair bit of angst among people locally. What we should be focused on is renewable resources, rather than dipping into an old-style industry."
Mantle's managing director, Ian Kraemer, sought to defend the project. "If there is coal there that could be mined in the future, then it would be a very small impact," Mr Kraemer said. "It could happen quite quickly and the site could be restored quite quickly ... Our view is that brown coal has its place to play in the future energy mix on the planet. Brown coal, unlike black coal, has the potential to deliver large emissions reductions," he said.
Kraemer said that if the licence was granted, detailed community consultation would be underaken. "We need to spend time in the field, talking to people, to understand where the two things are the deposits versus the competing uses," he said.
Kraemer told The Age "the energy demand on this planet is going to be immense. We need to use every sort of renewable energy, but coal is also going to be used offshore," he said.
Ahead of a public meeting on the proposed project, the Victorian Minister for Resources, Michael O'Brien sought to do downplay concerns about the proposed project. "You don't just start mining brown coal. There's a process of seeking an exploration license, entering into negotiations with any relevant landholders, then there's an application for a mining license. [It's] very hypothetical at the moment. It's a long way down that track," he told ABC Radio.
The public meeting was attended by approximately 250 residents. At the meeting Kraemer said "I'm overwhelmed by the opposition and I have taken it on board and I will talk to my board and if a raise of hands shows me you're against it, I'll walk away."
When the meeting voted unanimously against the proposed exploration licence, the audience burst out cheering. "We will walk away, okay, based on that", he said.
Following the vote, Kraemer stated that the company was withdrawing its application. "The social issue here has become obvious that there would be very little support for an exploration license ... We have a responsibility to the community, to the environment and to our shareholders, and it's obvious to me to make the decision that there is not a road forward here," he said.
Deans Marsh beef producer Maryanne Stewart told ABC Radio that "we live in the most beautiful part of the world and I could just not see the sense in going anywhere down the path of coal mining. I think we knew we had to show that we had the numbers behind us."
In a statement to the Australian Stock Exchange Mantle stated that "after considering the potential prospectivity of the area, potential conflict arising out of competing land use in the locality, and the potential costs/benefits over time, Mantle has taken a pragmatic decision to withdraw its application for an exploration licence in order to focus its resources on other higher priority projects."
Australian Greens Senator Richard Di Natale said after the meeting that "it was a bit surreal, initially people necessarily weren't sure they heard him properly." He siad that the compamy would lobby to stop Mantle's plans for projects in Bacchus Marsh and Gippsland. Freinds of the Earth campaign co-ordinator, Cam Walker, welcomed the decision. "The time for further investment in coal, especially broad acre open cuts, is long over," he said.
145 Stirling Highway,
Nedlands, Western Australia
Phone:(08) 9389 3130
Fax:(08) 9389 3199
P.O. Box 3144
Nedlands WA 6009
Articles and resources
- Mantle Mining, "Deans Marsh Coal Project Application", Announcement to the Australian Stock Exchange, June 22, 2011.
- Carl Dickens, "Otways brown coal mine bid", Geelong Advertiser, July 18th, 2011.
- Laura Beavis, "Greens condemn Otways coal plan", ABC News, July 19, 2011.
- Peter Hunt & John Conroy, "Mining boom hits Victoria", Weekly Times, July 20, 2011.
- Alex Johnson, "Deans Marsh mine's impact 'minimal'", Geelong Advertiser, July 24th, 2011.
- Adam Morton, "Coalmine worries Deans Marsh", The Age, July 27, 2011.
- "Otways mine bid a long way off: O'Brien", ABC News, July 27, 2011.
- Margaret Burin, "Mining company walks away from Otways coal", ABC Radio, July 28, 2011.
- Margaret Burin, "Mining company walks away from Otways coal", ABC Radio, July 28, 2011. (Sound file).
- "Mining company abandons Otways coal plan", ABC News, July 28, 2011.
- Mantle Mining, "Deans Marsh Update", Mantle Mining, July 28, 2011.
- Martin Watters, "Otway coal push abandoned after backlash", Geelong Advertiser, July 28th, 2011.
- David Rood, "Otway coal search plans dumped", Sydney Morning Herald, July 29, 2011.
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