A gold mine near Mount Perry is set to close, with a proposal moving forward for the site to become a pumped hydro facility, but growers want to know how water will be sourced for the electricity generation project.
Concerns have been raised water from Paradise Dam could be sold by operators Sunwater, for the Mt Rawdon Pumped Hydro project, which lists construction being scheduled for 2024.
Evolution Mining are the operators of the mine near Mt Perry set to close in 2028, but plans reveal the company have partnered with ICA Partners to propose, dependant on feasibility, the open cut mine be transformed to a pumped hydro plant, capable of generating 20,000 MWh of renewable energy.
The electricity would be generated by converting the mine pits into water reservoirs and then allowing the water to flow from the high to the low reservoir.
When excess solar and wind electricity is being produced in the grid, the power is used for the water to be pumped back up for the process to start again.
It's the water central to the whole proposed hydro facility and process which concerns a group of Bundaberg and North Burnett region farmers according to Bundaberg Agribusiness lawyer, Tom Marland.
He said many growers have raised concerns with him that water sales are being proposed from the dam, even before repairs have been completed and the water level returned to full operation.
"We have been through a really tough time since Paradise Dam was reduced, down to 22 per cent allocation last year, and even before the dam is fixed we are hearing proposals of taking extra water out of the system," he said.
"That water should be really quarantined for high value agriculture.
"The investment should be made by the government to ensure there is plenty of water for all these projects, but not at the cost of agriculture."
Mr Marland is leading a class action about the mismanagement of Paradise Dam on behalf of local farmers, after the dam wall was lowered by 5.8 metres in 2020 due to structural concerns.
Pumped hydro power generating projects are part of the Queensland Government's clean energy plan, with a target of 70 per cent renewable use by 2032 and 80 per cent by 2035.
Bundaberg Fruit and Vegetable Growers Chief Executive Officer Bree Watson also hopes agriculture water-use remains a priority as Paradise Dam is repaired.
"That dam was built to secure the Bundaberg Irrigation Scheme, and we need to remember that is what it was built for," she said.
"We need to ensure the unsold water remains there until the dam wall is back up and operating at 100 per cent capacity .
"If we start selling off that water now, we are risking that reliability for those that currently have water allocations."
Paradise Dam was completed in 2005 and supplies water for crop irrigation, urban and industrial use in Burnett and Bundaberg region.
Water sales have been on hold since 2020 when essential works of lowering the dam began.
In a statement from Sunwater a spokesperson said while "dealings with current or prospective customers are commercial-in-confidence," now both levels of government are committed to restore the dam, the organisation would reconsider water sales in consultation with all interested parties.
"Customer feedback will allow us to determine if water sales should occur prior to finalisation of the remediation of Paradise Dam."
A statement from the Office of the Coordinator-General describes water as a "key issue" to be assessed as part of the pumped hydro project's "rigorous" environmental impact statement.
The Mt Rawdon Pumped Hydro website states operation is scheduled for 2029.
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