The approval of the new coal mine in New South wales could be taking food from Australia’s food bowl, a rich farming area that will be directly impacted by the massive open-cut coal mine three kilometres from tiny Breeza.
Earlier this month, Chinese company Shenhua received Australian government approval for the mine which was one of the last hurdles in the company’s mission to dig up 10 million tonnes of black coal a year to ship from Newcastle 282km (170 miles) to the east.
The mine, which is larger than the city of Sydney, and is called the Shenhua Watermark mine. It has met with public fighting among stakeholders and the project has been described by local farmers as agricultural genocide.
Fiona Simson, described the Liverpool Plains as an iconic agricultural region because of its outstanding natural resources.
Ms Simson, whose cropping farm is 50km from the proposed mine, is a former president of the NSW Farmers Association.
“We must and will keep fighting,” she told the BBC. “This project is not in the national interest.”
The Liverpool Plains is often referred to as NSW’s food bowl and is counted among the best agricultural land in Australia because of its fertile black soils, temperate climate, good rainfall, and rich surface and underground water resources.
The Association says fighting the A$1.2bn ($887m, £570m) mine is the most important challenge facing NSW farmers.
In reaction to concerns Shenhua management have committed to saying that the mine will not damage the region’s groundwater supplies and promises to look after vulnerable ecological communities with Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt adding taht the mine is subject to some of “the strictest conditions in Australian history”.
But Agriculture Minister and Nationals member Barnaby Joyce, whose electorate of New England takes in the proposed Shenhua mine, has publicly condemned Mr Hunt’s decision to approve it.
“I think it is ridiculous that you would have a major mine in the midst of Australia’s best agricultural land,” he wrote on his Facebook page.
The Deputy Prime Minister, Warren Truss, agreed. In a statement to BBC, delivered by his spokesman, the Minister expressed, “The Nationals recognise the vital role that the coal mining industry plays in our national economy, but we believe that prime agricultural land should be preserved for its vital role in producing food for future generations.”
The Nationals’ inability to hold back the tide of black coal has left many farmers frustrated, forcing them into unnatural alliances with environmentalists and the Greens party and leading to the formation of groups like Lock the Gate.
“We should not put our food bowl in jeopardy for the short-term benefit of a coal mine,” says NSW Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham.
“Our capacity to feed ourselves is obviously fundamental to the national interest,
“These sorts of alliances [between farmers and environmentalists] are becoming more and more common,” said Buckingham.
But Ms Simson says the issue should not be about politics, “All sides of politics have had a hand in this,” she said of the Shenhua mine.
“The people in the region feel let down by not just the Nationals. If [the Labor Party] had still been in power, we’d potentially still be in the same situation now.”