Mining and farming may seem like mutually exclusive operations, and the two industries are often at loggerheads. It would appear counterintuitive that the degradation of land inherent in the mining process would result in healthier cattle and increased grazing lands for farmers. Nonetheless, in a ground-breaking partnership between farmers and miners, that is exactly what’s happening.
Thanks to an initiative called the Upper Hunter Mining Dialogue, mining giants like BHP and Glencore are engaging in discussions with local farmers to solve age-old mining issues and help the two industries to work together. Established in 2010 by the NSW Minerals Council and the Hunter Valley region’s mining firms, the Dialogue hopes to make a positive impact on not only the environment, but on relations between two of the Hunter Valley’s biggest industries.
Recent (and seemingly endless) battles fought as often in the court of public opinion as anywhere else, paint miners and big, bad bullies who take over homes, land and businesses all in the name of multinational profits. One local resident’s fight to keep her land (after three attempts to boot her off it) comes to mind. Wendy Bowman won the battle in the end, being told that even under the mining land acquisition policy, Yancoal would not be able to acquire her land unless they could convince her to sell up. This small win (in the grand scheme of things) may signal a changing of attitudes in the Hunter Valley towards big miners.
The Upper Hunter Mining Dialogue is also making inroads, with some very promising results to show for their efforts. BHP and Coal & Allied are currently taking part in a trial to rehabilitate mining land into grazing pastures. The 4-year trial hopes to establish that the rehabilitated lands are in fact more beneficial to cattle growth than regular grazing pastures. A couple of years into the trial, results are showing that cattle are on average 150kg heavier than those grazed on an unmined or ‘analogue’ site.
As the trial continues, the Department of Primary Industries (who helped to design the trial, in collaboration with the Upper Hunter Mining Dialogue Joint Working Group) are hoping to see further positive results over different seasons and under a range of conditions.