A Chinese-owned company has been granted approval to run a commercial water-mining operation in southern Queensland, sparking outrage among farmers and landholders amid an extensive spell of drought in the region.
Royal Duke Holdings received approval last month from the Southern Downs regional council to run an Elbow Valley-based water extraction and distribution facility.
The company proposes to mine 96 million liters of local groundwater a year from a fractured rock aquifer beneath the Cherrabah Resort, which it operates near the Queensland-New South Wales border, and sell it off for commercial plastic bottling to the Gold Coast, The Australian reported.
Royal Duke Holdings won approval for its controversial project on a number of conditions, including upgrading nearby roads. It wants to build a “water extraction and distribution facility,” according to the company’s council application.
The decision has been met with outrage from the drought-hit region’s residents, who have grown accustomed to strict council implemented water restrictions. As of last month, residents were told to adhere to taking three-minute showers, washing clothes twice a week, and limiting toilet usage to four half-flushes a day so as to not exceed using 80 liters of water per person daily.
Drinking water is also on the verge of running out, the The Guardian reported.
As water supply in the town of Stanthorpe is scarce, residents rely on 50 truckloads of water being transported in daily from Connolly Dam located 75 kilometers away.
Andrew O’Dea, a cattle farmer and property owner whose family has worked on the land for four generations, told The Australian he was “pretty gutted” by news of the operation’s approval, which he branded as risky.
“This mine is going to have a severe impact on our groundwater supplies,” he told the news outlet. “With the conditions the region is experiencing at the moment, I expected a different outcome.”
O’Dea, who lives about 5 kilometers from the proposed operation site, called on the state government to take action. He said the ongoing drought has meant just six cattle remain on his 800-hectare farm, in contrast to the usual 200.
“There is no excuse to justify taking 96 million liters of water a year out of the aquifer. The risk is just too high,” O’Dea added. “I guess it’s a bit of salt in the wound, having to make decisions based on a lack of water when others are trying to sell their excess.”
The region’s main resource of water, Storm King Dam, stands at just 9.6 percent capacity due to the crippling drought.
Southern Downs Mayor Tracy Dobie defended the council on the basis that it was the government that issued and managed water-extraction licenses, and strict conditions were given in its approval, The Australian reported.
The Epoch Times reached out to the council for comment, but did not immediately hear back.