A central Queensland community has lashed-out at resources giant Anglo American over its slow response in repairing a huge earthquake-like crack in a vital access road to the small town of Moura last year.
The crack in Gibihi Road was caused by a routine blast at its mine in early November, closing the road to the community south-west of Rockhampton.
The road was part of a busy school route, a direct link for grain and cotton farmers, and was used daily by workers at the Dawson Mine.
A resident of Gibihi Road, Kristine Brown, is just one of many residents of the Banana Shire whose life has been dramatically inconvenienced by the road closure.
“This happened four months ago,” she said.
“And in that four months we’ve had no contact from council or Anglo [American] with regard to any updates on what’s happening with the road.”
Ms Brown has two young children whose trip to school has gone from 10 minutes to half an hour.
But it is not just her family’s time that has been put out. They have lost essential services too.
“We’ve lost access to a school bus, we’ve lost access to mail delivery, we’ve lost access to emergency services. We had six snake bites and we lost three dogs for the sheer fact we couldn’t get to town in time to save our dogs,” she said.
“So it’s not just the workers that are affected, it’s not just the local farmers that can’t get grain to town, it’s the families as well.
“It’s everyday things in life that are affected.”
For the first time since the blast, Anglo American addressed residents of the Banana Shire last night.
Consultations begin with community
Anglo American’s Australian leadership team CEO David Diamond fronted the first of several community consultations, saying he was sorry for the trouble it has caused.
“We triggered the blast, we have the mining lease and there’s a road that’s not working. So we have to fix it and so we have to apologise for that,” he said.
Mr Diamond outlined the geotechnical issues with the road and where the company was looking to move forward.
He was met with fiery statements from angry residents who said his plans and lack of response to the community over the last four months was not good enough.
“You could not begin to totally understand the angst, the sadness, the disappointment and disgust in this community,” one local said.
Mr Diamond admitted the company could have handled consultation with the community better.
“I think that is the one area … community consultation, we should have done better.”
Mr Diamond gave residents an estimated three weeks to find a solution.
“What we’ve learnt out of this is we will absolutely make sure we are front and centre in the community and people can see what is going on, put their questions to us, take part in what the design for the future needs to be as well as tell us where the hardships are,” he said.
An impact study is also being conducted.
Anglo American will host further consultation sessions with locals, businesses and grain and cotton representatives.
Miner could face class action
The detour has added up to 45 kilometres to a trip that used to be 10km and people are looking for compensation for their time, extra fuel costs and wear and tear on vehicles.
A group is also planning to launch a class action against Anglo American in a bid to get compensation for the community’s inconveniences.
Banana Shire Mayor Nev Ferrier said he expected the community members’ response at the meeting.
“They didn’t realise what is involved now to try and put the road back,” he said.
“But now most of them probably do.”
He said it was a difficult situation with no quick and easy fix.
“We had already thought about a detour around it and everything — bitumen and that … we could have that done pretty quick — but the way it is they’re saying it’s still not safe either,” he said.
“So we’ve still got to try and find different solutions.”