Lock the Gate Alliance Director Sarah Moles visited Leigh Creek to share the lessons learned from Linc Energy’s underground coal gasification (UCG) project near Chinchilla in Queensland.
“ … For goodness sake, don’t let South Australia go down this road,” Ms Moles said about the proposed UCG project at Leigh Creek’s former coalfield site.
Residents from Leigh Creek and Copley met with Ms Moles to listen to details about the Chinchilla project, which led to widespread contamination and a statewide ban on UCG in Queensland.
Ms Moles said Leigh Creek locals showed deep concerns about the little regard shown for their health.
“They were alarmed that there could be such severe health impacts on people exposed to high levels of very toxic, volatile compounds,” she said.
“This is a very extreme example of developing fossil fuels and a very risky way of extracting fossil fuels.
“The question is: is it worth it when there are known effects on air, water and human health?”
Lock the Gate, a national grassroots organisation with more than 120,000 supporters, continued its protests in Adelaide on Thursday, December 6, urging the South Australian government to follow in Queensland’s footsteps and ban UCG.
Ms Moles has worked in natural resource management and fresh water conservation in Queensland for 25 years.
Her meeting in Leigh Creek also highlighted the “putrid smell” generated from the UCG facility in Chinchilla, as well as the similarities between the two projects, with key personnel from Linc Energy now involved in Leigh Creek Energy (LCK).
However, LCK has maintained that there are significant differences between the Leigh Creek Energy Project and the facility in Chinchilla.
A report completed in April 2018 by state government’s Energy Resources Division declared the abandoned Leigh Creek mining area to be a site that “meets established best practice criteria for minimising environmental risks”.
In the report, titled ‘Assessment of Leigh Creek Energy UCG Trial Proposal’, the author states that issues at the Chinchilla site came as a result of “driving operational practices that exceeded the natural geological containment of the site”.
UCG, also known as in-situ gasification, involves injecting oxygen into coal seams to convert coal into product gas.