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Fracking – A Threat to Livestock and Livelihood?

Hydraulic fracturing, popularly known as fracking, is a process used by energy companies to mine for or harvest natural gas. Fracking is a process where simultaneous drilling and blasting with water mixed with hundreds of chemicals at high pressure deep into the ground.

In the US alone energy companies have established over half 1 million active wells.

Each fracturing uses 1-8 million gallons of water and about 40,000 gallons of about 600 chemicals some chemicals used are reputedly very nasty and could cause all sorts of problems.

In Europe lawmakers have voted to force energy companies to carry out in-depth audits before they deployed fracking to recover natural gas, there are few guidelines at all in Australia.

In the US one paper written which was peer review suggested that people and animals living near hydraulic fracking operations had become de facto laboratories for the study of environmental toxicology. What seems certain is that when there have been spills there has been a loss of livestock and livestock that have survived are prone to have youngsters with birth defects.

Some people are suggesting we should be testing soil water and air prior to any drilling. And further tests should be carried out when drilling begins and when it is completed. It would also be reasonable for companies to be more forthcoming about the chemicals and the concentration of chemicals used in drilling.

In Australia many farmers rely on underground water. one farmer who got professional advice, found that he is accessing water 100 meters down and after fracking and drilling has been completed he will have to go down to 600 m to access water. Pumping from this depth would be cost prohibitive and what would the water be like at that depth.

In New South Wales there have been instances where after fracking farmers have been able to burn gas from water taps, this does not sound good practice to me.

These are some of the issues that cause concern to a lot of producers who may have energy companies knocking on their doors to get access to drill.

Landowners only own first 6 inches of soil and crown owns whatever is underneath. This is in direct contrast to the US where landowners have the royalties of any mining activity.

Landowners who object to miners putting roads and infrastructure on their land seem to have very little legal redress. Although there is compensation it is very much on the light side and a lot of people are very dissatisfied with the interruption to their lives and farming practices.

A case study in Queensland of a beef producer who had a mining company knocking at his door some four or five years ago wanting permission to enter his property for preliminary exploration. This could be either verbal or in writing and if he refused then the company would go back and get a court order allowing access. Since initial contact the producer has built up a significant legal bill and the mining company will not pay his legal bill till he has signed a compensation agreement. I believe legislation is allowing mining companies to do this and some are only too willing to use it to the fullest.

This producer heads a significant farming enterprise and like all farmers is time poor however the mining company have refused to pay for his time; which over the years would have added up to many weeks’ worth. Imagine if the roles were reversed what would be the reaction of the mining company? Some people believe strongly that government legislation is aiding and abetting mining companies to hold a gun to the head of Australian farmers.

When drilling starts they require a one hectare site for drilling to go down to a depth of up to a thousand metres. The drill site is to be security fencedwith steel posts and barbed wire to stop any

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stock getting to the drill site. This practice is questionable at best, well below LPA standards. Then a 1 ha Pond at a depth of 3 to 4 mtrs will be lined with plastic. The drilling company say that standard practice is not to fence ponds (this is very questionable), when finished the company must rehabilitate the site. When a farmer signs an NVD and the drilling company has left, will a producer be covered for any problems from residues? Is it possible that we may not even test our beef for the sort of residues that may show up after drilling has finished or, even worse, have we got the ability at this stage to test in Australia for these sorts of residues?

This is this is just the start and we don’t insure that all potential problems are covered then we are putting more than the beef industry at risk.

Any producer who has a story to tell about mining companies on their land could you contact the ABA and notify us of the details.

David Byard

ausbeef@bigpond.com

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