Four Corners - Good Earth, The
The Liverpool Plains in northern New South Wales has been called the food-bowl of Australia, the nation's most fertile agricultural land. The key to its productivity is its rich volcanic soil and a ready supply of underground water.
Reporter Sarah Ferguson visits the front line as farmers confront two mining giants with a blockade that's intended to keep coal exploration teams off their property. The mining companies say that coal mines can co-exist with intensive agriculture but farmers reject this view warning they will not give up their land.
BHP Billiton and the Shenhua Corporation have paid 400 million dollars for mining exploration licenses. Inevitably a series of massive coal mines would change the region. Farmers claim there would be pollution from the mines. They say the massive long-wall mines that would be used to extract the coal would cut into the fragile underground water system, resulting in contamination and diverting it from productive farming use.
The battle for the Liverpool Plains though is more than a land-use dispute. The water that runs below the plain ultimately drains into the Murray-Darling Basin. As a result the farmers have joined forces with the Greens to demand the Federal Government stops any mining that would destroy water flowing into the endangered river system. In an attempt to find a way through the issue, the New South Wales government has agreed to a major study that would look at the aquifers that locals say hold the key to the region's future agricultural prosperity. Will this resolve the clash between Australia's two great primary industries?
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