Farmers Battle Subsidence

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California, Sept 13: In the heart of Australia’s farmlands, a growing environmental crisis threatens the livelihoods of farmers and underscores the urgent need for regulatory action. Soil subsidence, a phenomenon linked to coal seam gas (CSG) production, has emerged as a significant concern, impacting over 20 million hectares of farmland in Queensland alone. One farmer, Zena Ronnfeldt, has become a symbol of the struggle to preserve agricultural land in the face of expanding energy production.
Australia’s coal seam gas industry, driven by government policies to increase gas-fired electricity generation, has expanded rapidly in recent years.
This process involves drilling into coal seams to release methane gas, accompanied by the removal of associated water from groundwater aquifers.
While essential for energy production, CSG extraction poses serious environmental risks, including habitat disruption, ecosystem damage, and soil subsidence.

The government’s approach to regulating CSG mining in Australia is complex, with state governments primarily overseeing operations and federal oversight through the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.
In Queensland, the Gasfields Commission manages the coexistence of CSG and agriculture, but concerns persist about the adequacy of current regulations and the fair compensation of affected farmers.
Zena Ronnfeldt, a Queensland farmer, has experienced firsthand the impact of CSG mining on her farm in the Western Downs region.
Alarming changes in soil moisture have led to water pondages and waterlogged terrain, despite predictions of increased rainfall.
These changes prompted her to investigate the role of CSG mining in the subsidence issue.
Her suspicions were confirmed by studies showing CSG-induced subsidence, which increased significantly in certain areas.
To gather more data, Zena Ronnfeldt turned to EOS Data Analytics, a global provider of AI-powered satellite imagery analytics.
EOSDA scientists initiated an investigation to assess the impact of CSG mining on soil subsidence using satellite data.
While satellite imagery alone couldn’t directly track the effects of coal seam gas mining, it did provide indirect information about soil subsidence.
EOSDA’s Crop Monitoring platform used the Normalized Difference Moisture Index (NDMI) to assess soil moisture levels. Comparing NDMI maps with drainage patterns and digital elevation models revealed changes in moisture accumulation due to subsidence.
However, to definitively establish the link between subsidence and CSG mining, Zena Ronnfeldt utilized LiDAR data, a remote sensing method.
When combined with NDMI maps and aerial photographs, this technology offered a clearer picture of the impact of CSG mining on soil subsidence.
Zena Ronnfeldt’s journey serves as a testament to individual action and sustainable farming practices. She aspires to create a legislative mechanism that allows farmers to seek compensation more easily while advocating for the preservation of land and livelihoods.
Her efforts have already influenced the GasFields Commission Queensland, which acknowledged the risk of permanent negative consequences from CSG mining in its final report.
Vera Petryk, Chief Marketing Officer at EOS Data Analytics, commended Zena Ronnfeldt’s dedication to sustainability, stating, “Farmers like Zena Ronnfeldt inspire us greatly. Their dedication to sustainability gives meaning to our work and fuels our commitment to innovation for the betterment of our planet.”
As the soil subsidence issue continues to unfold, Zena Ronnfeldt’s story highlights the need for a balanced approach that considers both economic interests and environmental preservation.
It serves as a reminder that the health of our planet relies on the actions of individuals and collaborative efforts to address pressing environmental challenges.

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