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Qld farmers lock the gate on bauxite miner

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May 12 2011, 2:05PM

Adds comment from QBL

BRISBANE, May 12 AAP - Farmers around Kingaroy in southeast Queensland are refusing to give a bauxite mining company access to their land.

A meeting of 150 farmers on Wednesday confirmed they would join others in eastern Australia in the Lock the Gate campaign by an alliance of groups seeking to preserve their enterprises against exploration and extraction of fossil fuels.

Queensland Bauxite (QBL) is proposing to prospect for bauxite on the fertile red soils of the South Burnett and was recently granted an Exploration Permit for Minerals (EPM) by the Queensland government.

QBL has been contacting local landholders seeking access to begin exploration drilling.

"As a result of the meeting, local residents have resolved to lock the gate and not to co-operate with QBL requests for access to discuss exploration or begin drilling," said John Dalton, secretary of the Kingaroy Concerned Citizens Group (KCCG).

"If the government of the day considers it a good idea to consider transforming rare fertile farms into a bauxite mine, then they should come up here and explain, because most people at tonight's meeting believe it unthinkable," he said.

"The rest of the world is concerned about securing future food sources, and our government is thinking of trading it in so we can buy cheap mag wheels from China."

He said affected people need an objective source of information about mining projects "and most people do not consider a mining company a fully transparent and objective source".

QBL's chief operating officer Mark Derriman, who attended the meeting, sought to reassure landholders.

He said the company was only attempting to gauge the extent of bauxite deposits.

"Once we've completed our preliminary exploration ourselves, the government, the landowners are all in a better position to make a call on what the next stage will be," Mr Derriman told AAP on Thursday.

He said exploration would be confined to public roads and spaces, and land where the company had been given permission to enter.

"I can say categorically that the only time at the moment that we'll enter onto anybody's land is if we have permission.

"That's just the right thing to do."

He said exploration could find that bauxite deposits were not economically viable.

One farmer at Wednesday night's meeting decided to withdraw permission he had already given the company to enter his land.

"KCCG member Keith Jessen publicly informed QBL that he is reversing his previous consent for access for exploration to begin, and that QBL was not to begin drilling on his property on Monday as previously planned," Mr Dalton said.

Friends of the Earth organiser and acting president of the national Lock the Gate Alliance, Drew Hutton, told the meeting that farmers hold the winning cards in any legal dispute over access.

"Private property rights are paramount in Australian constitutional law and the mining companies know it," he said.