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Byron Shire
June 22, 2021

Pilliga Scrub: ‘destruction as far as I could see’

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An area of the Pillaga Forest where a CSG wastewater spill occurred in 2011. Two years later, nothing has grown back. Photo David Saunders
An area of the Pilliga Forest where a CSG wastewater spill occurred in 2011. Two years later, nothing has grown back. Photo David Saunders

With the announcement that CSG miners are planning to return to the northern rivers, some groups of anti-CSG activists are visiting the Pilliga to support forest protectors there and see first hand what damage was wrought by the now-infamous spill of wastewater into the pristine Pilliga Scrub.

The most recent to return was Byron Environment Centre (BEC) co-ordinator David Saunders, who told Echonetdaily yesterday that the trip was certainly ‘an eye opener’.

‘I have been finding when working the BEC kiosk I am asked for updates and info on CSG so much that I felt I needed to visit sites including the Pilliga and gather firsthand knowledge,’ Mr Saunders said.

‘I was lucky enough to be invited on an educational tour of the Pilliga.

‘I was shown an area consisting of hectares of former forest land where a CSG tailings dam overflowed after a rain event.

‘The area affected by the spill is completely dead now: all trees dead, all wildlife gone, not even a single ant to be seen.

‘It looks like a nuclear accident site, very frightening, and these are from just test wells on a small scale.’

Mr Saunders said he was told that, besides any chemicals and foreign substances such as sand that are injected into the wells to draw the gas out, there are ‘age-old and very toxic substances like fungi, heavy metals and other unknown pollutants that are disturbed by the CSG extraction process and are flushed into huge tailings dams’.

‘The evidence I saw and photographed of the now desert-like landscape from the spill says it all. CSG mining isn’t safe and is insanity. A great area of Australia is siting above the Great Artesian Basin; it may only take one spill like I saw to ruin our beautiful country,’ he said.

Mr Saunders added that the dead trees had been cleared by the gas company after the spill occurred in 2011 but nothing has grown back since.

Earlier this month another group of north coast activists visited the Pilliga, where locals are coming together to oppose CSG.

Byron local Iris Ray Nunn spoke to Anne Kennedy, president of the NSW Artesian Bore Water Users Association, who told a familiar story.

‘We feel we have been backed into a corner by governments refusing to listen to us or to consider the impacts of the potential loss of our groundwater if this gasfield is developed,’ Ms Kennedy said.

‘Community members are stepping up to protect our groundwater and defend this recharge zone of our precious Great Artesian Basin from CSG industrialisation,’ she added.

Bundella farmer Megan Kuhn said, ‘Here in northwest NSW we are currently facing an enormous challenge that we certainly didn’t ask for. Our communities, our water resources and our farmlands are all threatened by a coal seam gas invasion.

‘Santos has no social licence to operate and they are forcing themselves on concerned rural communities. We are standing on this road today to highlight Santos’s unacceptable behaviour in fencing off our Crown roads for their private drilling activities,’ she said.

Gomeroi elder Maureen Sulter added the message: ‘Winangaya dhawun. Respect the land.

‘It’s a powerful time out in the Pilliga at the moment, with many people coming together from across the region to protect this place from coal seam gas mining,’ she said.


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  1. Pilliga is a catchment for the Great Artesian Basin.This spill will have already gone into the groundwater. It will take decades to come out somewhere in western NSW.

    The governemnt tells us that there is no danger from CSG mining if proper safegaurds are followed by the miners. Money has always got in the way of such safeguards. This spill and the explosion near Casino are just the tip of the iceberg occurring in the research phase of this industry. What will happen during the production phase?

    Moreover what about in many years time when it comes to the dismantling and rehabilitation phase. Ultimately when the profit has all been extracted mining companies will play smoke and mirrors with their various entities and quietly disappear to avoid the cleanup costs. The people of Australia will pay again and it will probably cost more than the royalties paid.

  2. Isn’t this another instance of “Enclosure Law” enacted by the “Crown”. People should not be surprised. If they are they have been living in “Dreamland”. Australian people have no rights. They have only privileges granted to them as easily and superficially as they are taken away. We are currently in phase two of colonial exploitation. Ask AbOriginal people about phase one if you want an update.

    • Totally agree – we need a legal revolution to truly have the rights we deserve as citizens. Rights to clean air, fresh water and land to live on and utilise sustainably without mortgaging our labour for 30 to 35 years or destroying our shared environment.
      The Mining and Land Title Laws go hand in hand to benefit the wealthy and powerful and oppress the people. They were written in Feudal England when Kings and Land Barons ruled the Peasants and are little changed since then. They vest all resources in “the Crown” and land which has not been sold or granted by “the Crown” remains “Crown Land”. The language is not accidental – it is a reality of our Feudal Past and relevent to our Present state of enslavement and powerlessness.
      But people have Power too – we can protest and publish but we can also vote and join or form political parties. If all concerned and enlightened people joined the various parties they would be taken over and laws could be enacted that stop corporate destruction of our forests, farms and water.

  3. Destruction as far as I could see? There’s a few dead and felled trees. Looks like an old creek bed or firebreak! I could go to 80% of scrub forests and take exactly the same photo. I’m all for banning csg but how about some accurate reporting rather than an attention grabbing BS headline. This is the sort of story that anyone with half a brain will dismiss as crap but many greenies will jump on the band wagon and say see look how much damage has been done.
    It’s a shame your one sided hype style reporting has jaded my opinion of this very serious issue and you have lost all credibility by being sensationalistic instead of truthful.
    The masses are not as dumb as you think, but if you lead in with such a false headline one can only assume the rest of this reports is just as false. Such a shame on such a serious issue!


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