Traditional Owners, farmers, and residents are calling on Liberty Mutual to cancel Baralaba South

A recent survey undertaken in Baralaba, a town in Queensland, Australia, has revealed that more than 97% of locals oppose the proposed Baralaba South coal mine, a project that is 100%-owned by Liberty Mutual.

The decisive result represents the first time a community has stood united in opposition to a proposed coal project in the Bowen Basin, the biggest coal producing region in Australia, which is the largest coal exporting nation in the world.

Mount Ramsay Coal Company, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Liberty Mutual, wants to build the Baralaba South coal mine on prime agricultural land on the floodplains of the Dawson River, very close to the town of Baralaba.

However, the company faces stiff community opposition, with a comprehensive survey undertaken by the local Save the Dawson community group revealing 97.2 percent of respondents oppose the mine, with 99.6 percent in favor of reforms to better protect farmland in Queensland.

If the mine is allowed to proceed, Baralaba residents say it would:

  • Permanently destroy thousands of acres of prime agricultural land;
  • Lead to severe flooding and damage of thousands of acres of surrounding crop farms and homes due to flood levee banks’ diversion of floodwaters of the Dawson River;
  • Deplete and pollute water relied on for irrigation and stockwater by dozens of large cropping and livestock farms;
  • Lead to potentially permanent contamination of the drinking water supplies for the towns of Baralaba and the Woorabinda Aboriginal community; and
  • Cause a wide range of direct impacts including air pollution, excessive noise, and an increased risk of fatalities on local roads.

Liberty Mutual came under fire in June for walking away from insuring the proposed Adani Carmichael coal mine, while pushing ahead with plans to build its own coal mine at Baralaba South. Furthermore, Liberty adopted a policy in December 2019 stating that it would not make new investments in coal companies.

Paul Stephenson, whose family has farmed next to the proposed coal dump site for three generations, said that the company’s recent claim it wouldn’t invest in new coal companies is “a lie” in light of its attempts to push ahead with the Baralaba South coal mine.

“The community has spoken and they don’t want this coal mine. Liberty Mutual needs to respect the will of the community and walk away from project now, before more pointless destruction and harm is caused. This mine is a reckless and disastrous project both for our communities and for Liberty Mutual itself.

“We have heard countless reports that the geological surveys for the area that Liberty propose to mine were hopelessly inaccurate and that coal cannot be extracted profitably. Liberty Mutual are staking hundreds of millions of dollars and the lives and wellbeing of an entire community on a project which will never make them money. It’s grossly irresponsible for Liberty Mutual to proceed with this project, for our community, for the climate, and for its own policyholders, who stand to see hundreds of millions of dollars of their money flushed down the toilet.

“The community will never let this mine proceed. It’s that simple. Liberty Mutual risks its reputation and its financial standing with this unprofitable mine that nobody wants.

“Liberty Mutual CEO David Long and Chief Investment Office Neeti Bhalla seem to think that their futile attempt to gain more profit is more important than our community’s wellbeing. We’re calling on David Long and Neeti Bhalla to meet with us first-hand, so they can understand why this project is so damaging, and why we are determined to never let it proceed.

“Liberty Mutual should do the right thing and walk away from this project now.”

Save the Dawson group chairman and Baralaba grazier Brett Coombe said:

“You can’t put a coal mine on a floodplain, it just shouldn’t happen.  Especially on prime agricultural land – we’re not going to get any more of this – the prime agricultural land that we’ve got in the world today is all we’re ever going to have. We’ve got to look after it because we want it to be here for the next thousand years for our kids and our great grandkids and that’s not going to happen if we keep mining on floodplains.

“We’re fundamentally opposed to this mine because it will be built on a floodplain next to a river on prime agricultural land. As ambassadors looking after that land, we’ve got a responsibility to make sure the water that goes into the river is as good as we can make it because eventually it gets to the Reef.

“That’s the other thing that really gets us – Liberty Mutual can build this mine so close to a watercourse that flows to the Great Barrier Reef. It just shouldn’t be done.”

Douglas Graham, Director of the Woorabinda Indigenous Knowledge Learning Centre, said:

“We haven’t been consulted about anything about the water usage.

“I’m thinking about the dry years as well, because last year was pretty dry as well… If the river goes below 3.5m we don’t get anything here. So that’s the impact that water has on a dry season. And just imagine that dry season with what the mine wants to take out the same year.”