Dr Redenbach

Dr Merryn Redenbach chats with concerned locals

The expansion of coal mines west of Brisbane will double the amount of coal rumbling through the suburbs residents of Brisbane’s inner Southern suburbs heard at the Yeronga Bowls club last night.

Merryn Redenbach from Doctors for the Environment and Peter Faulkner from Oakey Coal Action Alliance brought very different perspectives to the topic.

Dr Redenbach provided a raft of evidence about those health impacts, including asthma and heart disease. She covered the damage caused by different particle sizes. Smaller particles are more dangerous as they get deeper into the lungs where the body’s defences are less able to deal with them.

coal blast plume

The plume from a blast at the New Hope Acland mine

Most monitoring only picks up particles of 10microns or larger in diameter as only these coarse particles are governed by law. The fine particles (2.5 microns in diameter) have guidelines but are rarely measured and the ultrafine particles (1 micron) are rarely measured at all.

Doctors for the Environment has research indicating that the cost of coal’s impact on human health is around 6.2 billion dollars. If we included this in the cost of coal fired electricity, renewables start to look very attractive indeed.

All corporations try to externalize as many costs as possible but Doctors for the Environment don’t want to let them off the hook on these health costs.

Peter Faulkner's down to earth style makes people sit up and listen

Peter Faulkner’s down to earth style makes people sit up and listen

President of the Oakey Coal Action Alliance, Peter Faulkner, is in the thick of those attempts by coal mines to reduce those costs west of Toowoomba. His main concern is that our food sovereignty and regional communities are under threat as the government paves the way for international energy companies to ravage the landscape in a short sighted dream to make Australia the Saudi Arabia of the twenty first century.

“We are not second class citizens,” he asserts, “and we should not be thrown off our land and give up our food security because some shareholders on the other side of the world want to make money from it.”

His group agitated to raise awareness about New Hope’s expansion plans and have watched in dismay as the company has divided the community with a PR war by throwing money at the local paper, school committee and “any body with their hand out who is prepared to go quiet on the impact of coal.”

The New Hope Acland mine is about eight kilometers from the town of Oakey and is expected to double in size. New Hope has exploration licenses across vast swathes of Queensland from the NSW border north in a band that runs from Toowoomba in the East, West to Dalby.

Peter presented a range of photographic evidence showing the effects of mining on the community. An inspiring speaker, his down to earth style and factual approach had the audience firing questions with a passion.

The evening was organized by Clean Air Queensland, which is well connected to Stop Brisbane Coal Trains, Lock the Gate, Bridging the Divide and the many local groups trying to salvage their communities and their farmland in the face of this onslaught from energy companies with the full backing of the government.

John Gordon and the author on radio talking about Coal Dust earlier this year. We worked hard with Greens Senator, Larissa Waters, to get the Senate Committee into clean air to Queensland.