Farmers banned from selling cattle

Queensland graziers near an underground coal gas project at the centre of a water contamination scare have been banned from selling cattle until tests clear their stock.

Cougar Energy was forced to shut down its pilot Underground Coal Gasification (UCG) plant near Kingaroy last week after the government learnt traces of cancer-causing chemicals benzene and toluene were found in bores on the site.

Biosecurity Queensland has banned farmers on nearby properties from selling their cattle for slaughter

It has also told property owners not to let animals drink bore water while testing for contamination continued.

“As a precautionary measure, Biosecurity Queensland officers advised property owners over the weekend not to slaughter animals on potentially affected properties until the situation had been assessed further,” chief biosecurity officer Ron Glanville said.

Mr Glanville said farmers were assessing the cattle, a process that should be completed within 24 hours.

He said he’d received scientific advice that benzene did not have long-term impacts on animals and was excreted very quickly.

“Biosecurity Queensland is determining a suitable length of time for cattle to be drinking clean water before cattle are fit to be slaughtered,” he said.

AgForce president John Cotter said cattle would most likely undergo fat sampling, as residue usually ended up in the fat.

“There are processes in place to make sure the integrity of our product is not threatened at all,” he said.

“But we are very concerned that this was allowed to happen without preventive processes, and the pressure is on to not allow that to happen in other regions (where UCG plants are being trialled).”

Linc Energy and Carbon Energy run two other UCG pilot projects near Chinchilla.

The Queensland government has announced eight extra staff will monitor a similar industry, producing coal seam gas, in the Surat Basin.

Mines and Energy Minister StephenRobertson said the new mining and environmental officers would be based in Roma and Dalby.

“This new squad of mining and environmental officers is what this region needs for a responsible and accountable coal seam gas industry,” Mr Robertson said.

“Together they form a tougher watchdog for the industry, ensuring that environmental obligations are strictly delivered on and approved gas extraction processes are followed by the book.”

Greens Senate candidate Larissa Waters said coal seam gas also affected aquifers.

She called on the federal government to play a bigger role in regulating the industry.