Third generation farmer Richard Hedlam is well aware of the coal seam that runs beneath his Woodbury property in Tasmania’s east.
He said he was approached by Midland Energy two years ago, and in no uncertain terms rejected their plan to extract coal from his farm.
“I feel a bit shocked it’s reared its ugly head again. We definitely don’t want a coal mine here,” he said.
The Perth-based company has an exploration licence at Woodbury and Jericho and is trying to raise equity in the United States.
In a media release it told potential investors its tenements contained 89 million tonnes of “export quality, clean coal” that it plans to export to India and Asia.
“After years of successful exploration and feasibility studies, the time is right to embark on the next phase of development to build a privately owned, low-CAPEX, high-profit margin coal mining business,” the release says.
“It was an easy choice to seek equity capital in the US since we are planning to use mining methods first pioneered in the coal fields of America.”
Midland Energy managing director Daniel Macri last week told ABC Hobart the company planned to use the highwall mining method — a hybrid between open-cut and underground mining.
“I think, ‘why not?’ Coal in Tasmania — it’s mined in every other state and exported,” he said.
“Who are we in the West to say that the developing world can’t have and can’t harness cheap energy that we’ve had access to for 200 years.”
Mr Hedlam said it would affect four farming families at Woodbury, none of whom had been recently consulted.
“We were notified two years ago but we’ve heard nothing about it since then, we were assured it was basically dead in the water,” Mr Hedlam said.
Mr Hedlam said that assurance came from a government MP.
Despite this, the State Government gave the company a $50,000 grant in March to continue exploration.
The company will receive the grant if it finishes drilling requirements by May 2020.
Resources Minister Guy Barnett said a mining licence had neither been sought nor approved for Midland Energy.
“They have to go through a rigorous assessment process; there’s a lot of water to go under the bridge,” he said.
“We need a measured approach, we need a balanced approach, and we will do what’s in the state’s best interests.”
Plan against Tasmania’s green image
Mr Hedlam said it would be ludicrous to mine productive farmland around Woodbury, after about $15 million had been spent on irrigation infrastructure.
“All this investment in irrigation by the Tasmanian Government and to let a coal mine into the district — it just flies in the face of everything Tasmania stands for,” he said.
Environmental groups have already mounted a campaign against the plan.
About 100 people rallied on Hobart’s Parliament lawns on Saturday, chanting “no more coal” and arguing the plan went against Tasmania’s clean, green image.
Southern Midlands Mayor Alex Green said there had been a lack of community consultation from the company.
“They need to build a case with the community, demonstrate there are benefits, but at the moment what I’m hearing from the community is they have some very grave concerns,” he said.
He said the council had not heard from the company for three years.
“We have not received any formal notification from this company,” he said.
“And personally, I’m disappointed in that because we’ve gone through similar issues in the past when fracking was proposed through the southern midlands and nothing came from that, except causing a lot of unrest and concern within the community.”
Mr Green said projects like this needed a social licence.
“It’s not a great start so far in my view, because we’re hearing nothing from the company except what we heard on ABC radio and via a press release not issued here but in the United States,” he said.
The exploration for coal in the area is nothing new.
In 1983, another company undertook significant work on what was dubbed the Woodbury Coal Project.
Victor Petroleum Resources Limited planned an open-cut operation that had been expected to create 119 jobs, but the plan was abandoned in favour of operations at Fingal.
Mr Green said back then the Woodbury area was dry, but it had now become very productive farmland.
“We’ve got the Midlands Irrigation Scheme which has seen that area transform into food crops and intensive agriculture now,” he said.
Midland Energy declined to be interviewed for this story.
This content was originally published here.