The fight against coal seam gas

The fight against coal seam gas


Australia’s coal-seam gas industry is booming, with tens of billions of dollars worth of projects underway, but it has sparked major conflict between farmers and gas explorers over rights to land and water.

The industry draws water out of coal seams to extract gas, a process that can impact water levels, and which worries farmers who depend on aquifers to sustain their livestock and crops.

. CHINCHILLA, Australia. REUTERS/Tim Wimborne

Anti coal-seam gas mining signs stand at the gate of a farm near Cecil Plains, in the state of Queensland, where $50 billion worth of coal-seam gas projects are taking place.

In Australia, farmers hold surface rights to their lands, but the government owns the minerals underneath, and can lease them out to gas companies, which then negotiate access and compensation agreements with the landowners.

. ROMA, Australia. REUTERS/Tim Wimborne

Farmer Scott Wason holds grains of freshly harvested wheat.

Targeted gas resources in the state lie beneath some of Australia's most productive and intensively farmed land.

. DALBY, Australia. REUTERS/Tim Wimborne

Highway traffic is backed up behind a piece of heavy mining equipment.

Coal-seam gas development is expected to boost gross domestic product in Australia by $3 billion per year when it reaches full scale, and employ 18,000 people at its peak. But with a surge of popular support for measures ranging from more regulation to an outright ban on drilling, it faces the prospect of project delays, higher costs and even blockades that have already succeeded in delaying drilling.

. CECIL PLAINS, Australia. REUTERS/Tim Wimborne

A facility for holding water pumped from underground during coal-seam gas mining is built on a property.

Wells for extracting coal-seam gas usually take up about one hectare, excluding land needed for infrastructure like roads.

. ROMA, Australia. REUTERS/Tim Wimborne

Farmer Scott Wason inspects a dam on his property.

Water resources are important in Australia, the world's driest inhabited continent where less than seven percent of land is arable and water shortages pose a serious threat.


The fight against coal seam gas.