Condamine River Queensland! Gas explodes from Australian river near fracking site
What are the issues about fracking in Australia?
There are numerous social and environmental issues associated with coal seam and shale gas mining, and fracking comes with its own set of specific concerns on top of that. Here are the key points:
All CSG mining produces waste water that needs to be stored and treated after it is pumped out from the well to release the gas.
At best, this water is salty, at worst, it contains heavy metals and radioactive substances. In addition to the environmental impacts of carting this water around (or piping it) to be treated and reused, there is large potential for human error or accidents where the contaminated water is released into the environment.
According to SBS, there were 23 spills, three breaches during flooding, and four uncontrolled spills of CSG mining waste water in the first six months of 2011 alone.
Still on waste water: even after treated, the water can contain heavy-metal contaminants that interfere with ecosystems, yet mining companies are allowed to dump this water in waterways.
There is some evidence that even without fracking, removing the water from the coal seam allows the methane to escape, along with other contaminants into air and water. Some health effects that have been observed in communities living close to CSG mines include nosebleeds, skin and eye irritation, unexplained seizures in children, headaches, nausea and vomiting.
Aquifers (underground water supplies) can become contaminated when the well is drilled
CSG resources are owned by the crown and are often located on land that is already in use, meaning land-owners, farmers and whole communities often have little or no say on whether a mine is dropped right on their doorstep. CSG mining devalues property and affects tourism and farming.
When it come to fracking, the above risks increase. In the US, where fracking is more common, there are cases of people being able to light their tap water on fire due to water-supply contamination.
Fracking requires huge amounts of water that is diverted from the local environment.
Fracking fluids also contain chemicals. In the past, a mix of benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylenes (BTEX) was used but these are banned in NSW and QLD as they contain known carcinogens. However, fracking can release naturally occurring BTEX into the environment.
What can you do about it?
If you live in an area where gas mining is planned, get in touch with Lock The Gate to familiarise yourself with your rights and how you can let your voice be heard. This map gives you a rough idea of the mining assets in your area.
Be alert to the issue and support communities that are standing up to coal-seam gas mining, defending their right not to have their own land pockmarked with gas wells.
Don’t install gas and limit your use of it. Even though natural gas has a lower carbon footprint than coal or oil, think-tank Beyond Zero Emissions poo-poos it as a household fuel, urging residents to use high-efficiency electricity from renewable sources as the best option.
If you don’t have solar or another renewable energy source, ask your provider for 100% Green Power, which means they are required to source your energy needs from renewables.
Stop funding the mining industry through your banking and superannuation.