Earlier this year the Upper Hunter Valley local community had a first-ever win over coal mining interests. The NSW Premier Kristine Keneally stopped the Bickham open cut coal mine, north of Scone, from going ahead, citing the unique rural characteristics of the locality, the economic importance of the local horse-breeding industry and community opposition as the main reasons for finally rejecting the proposal. (Upper Hunter Valley coal mine defeated by thoroughbred industry, Independent Media Centre, Australia, 16 May 2010)

Now the battleground has moved to the Margaret River in Western Australia, where the local community is trying to stop the proposed Vasse Coal Project at Osmington, which is 15 km from the Margaret River township and 1 km from the Margaret River waterway.

Potential problems from the proposed underground mine include groundwater contamination, a drop in air quality, wine grape tainting and traffic congestion.

But more emphatically, the Margaret River Wine Industry Association believes that the Margaret River’s world-class reputation as a wine producer and tourist destination will be threatened if mining in the region is permitted. (Wines Not Mines in Margaret River, Press Release, Margaret River Wine Industry Association, 20 August 2010)

Unlike the Upper Hunter Valley, where 14 massive open cut coal mines already co-exist, albeit in an uneasy relationship, with vineyards, horse-breeding and other agricultural activities, the Margaret River is a largely pristine, geographically isolated environment that up until now hasn’t had to worry about environmental threats from the mining industry.

Vanya Cullen of Cullen Wines says it’s “madness” to jeopardise Margaret River’s pristine reputation, “We’re recognised as a world-famous tourist destination and if we’re going to develop anything, it should be that.” Cullen recently stated. (Wine industry bid to crush Margaret River coal mine by Trevor Paddenburg, The Sunday Times, 7 August … Read the rest