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Byron Shire
October 16, 2021

North-coast artists and activists join Pilliga protest

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The protestors of the Pilliga ‘cooee’ the protestors at Bentley across the state from the Party at Maria’s Place at the Pilliga Pottery. Photo Eve Jeffery.

Eve Jeffery

The issue of CSG mining is in the forefront of people’s consciousnesses across the country and no less in the Pilliga, with activists locking on at the Santos coal seam gas drill rig site in the Pilliga forest.

On Saturday at Barkala Farm in the Pilliga, just north of Coonabarabran, a ‘Party at Maria’s Place’ concert was held to support to local residents united to protect prime agricultural land and culturally and environmentally significant country from quickly expanding CSG and coal mining in north west NSW.

Pilliga Pottery's Maria Rickert and S Sorrensen.
Pilliga Pottery’s Maria Rickert and Echonetdaily’s S Sorrensen.

Aussies Against Fracking, in conjunction with The Wilderness Society and Pilliga Pottery, organised the event, and The Echo’s Eve Jeffery and S Sorrensen were invited to make the journey, along with veteran journo Margo Kingston and Aussies Against Fracking director Nick Hanlon.

There, the group discovered sixth-generation farmers being forced out and arrested while entire farming regions are being bought up by Chinese state-owned corporation Shenhua Watermark Coal.

This fight is not about hippies with time on their hands. People from all walks of life including students, the aged, and farmers, are all downing tools and putting their life on hold to send a clear message. Lock The Gate!

There have been a reported 17 arrests so far, including eight on the weekend, says Ms Hanlon.

‘The amalgamation of the Boggabri and Maules Creek mines in the northern Liverpool Plains will create the biggest coal mine in NSW,’ she says.

‘Tim Flannery said recently that this mine is anticipated to create more greenhouse gas emissions in a year than the country of New Zealand.’

Recently fossil fuel company Santos was fined $1,500 for poisoning an aquifer in the region with uranium.

Gomeroi elder Aunty Maureen Sulter. Photo Eve Jeffery

Speakers and performers including Alan Glover and S Sorensen, local Gomeroi elder Aunty Maureen Sulter, Naomi Hogan from the Wilderness Society,  National Lock The Gate co-ordinator Phil Laird, north coast performers Andrea Soler and Ilona Harker, Gomeroi woman Deborah Briggs, the Kaakaa Wakakirri dancers, The Remains, Kevin Bennet and activist Dayne Pratsky, just to name a few, all gave their time, energy and heartfelt best wishes to the 500 who converged on the Pilliga Pottery.

Pottery owner Maria Rickert who donated the use of her land, facilities and accommodation for performers and organisers, was nothing but humble in her gratitude for all that was being done to support the local people in their fight against the rape of the land.

The morning after the concert, about 80 people visited one of the toxic spills that has occurred as a result of Santos’s CSG program in the area.

Meanwhile a small group – including musician Ash Grunwald who headlined the concert bill, along with Aussies Against Fracking director Nick Hanlon, Echo photojournalist Eve Jeffery Echonetdaily columnist S Sorrensen and veteran journo Margo Kingston – visited Liverpool Plains farmer Sam Clift, a sixth generation broad-acre farmer who took them to a coal mine where Grunwald donned a wetsuit and gas mask to surf a slag pile, underlining the potential destruction of this agricultural region by the fossil fuel industry.

Ash Grunwald surfs the slag. Photo Eve Jeffery.
Ash Grunwald surfs the slag. Photo Eve Jeffery.

The gas-masked surfer is a symbol of the nation’s conscience as the icons Australians value are being destroyed. Farmland, rivers, forests, aquifers and sacred sites are under attack. As a result of Santos’s CSG-mining program an aquifer has already been poisoned with uranium – and the industry is just in its early stages.

The amalgamation of the Boggabri and Maules Creek mines in the northern Liverpool Plains will create the biggest coal mine in NSW. This mine will significantly increase greenhouse gas emissions for Australia and will impact on global climate change. Tim Flannery said recently that this mine is anticipated to create more greenhouse gas emissions in a year than the country of New Zealand.

With renewable alternatives available, and with the health impacts of the coal- and CSG-mining industries becoming increasingly apparent, highlighting the plight of a threatened rural Australia is increasingly urgent.

~ Photos Eve Jeffery

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  1. Can you please tell me where I can find out info about any Fracking disasters that have occured and what chemicals are used in the process as well as what are the percentages of these chemicals used.?

  2. You wont find any Chris..
    Disasters from Fracking in USA
    Disaster for Coal Mines: Sharp reduction in Carbon dioxide Emission’s as cheap gas replaces dirty coal in power production
    Disaster for Saudi Oil Oligarchs: As USA rapid increase in local sweet crude stop reliance on Sour Sauid Oil and the corruption in 3rd world OPEC nation
    Disaster for USE Unemployment agents: US manufacturing has first upswing in decades due to cheap power enabling manufacturing again.
    Fracking chemicals are now sources 100% from food industry – ie any thing pumped down hole is approved for human consumption..
    The main process of fracking is large volumes of water, sand or glass beads, (to hold open the cracks). Some chemicals are added (<1%) to add some viscosity to the water so the sand does not Clump/settle during pumping… the same stuff that is used to make chocolate mousse,, you know well Moussy..
    The facts are not as hysterical as the fuss

  3. I trust that the wetsuit and surfboard were made from pixie dust, and not – well, you know… chemicals. Sunglasses? Compressed muesli, I hope.

  4. Apart from its rape of our planet, the greatest tragedy about fracking is that all that cheaper gas has funded a revival in the US economy. Great news? Not at all. The urge to consume is being facillitated, capitalism is getting a steroid growth shot and we see the consequences everywhere. Up here in the Dandenongs, we have been invaded by McDonald’s and the entire ambience of our homes destroyed.

    The obvious effects of extracting and selling gas — mass extinctions, rampant capitalism, poisoned children — are bad enough. But the tertiary consequences of so much cheaper energy are a cancer on our society.

    This is an issue that concerns everyone, or should. There is no way to regard the drilling and deep penetration of Mother Earth as anything but rape pure and simple. In this case, the ejaculatory material are those toxic chemicals that will cause cancer and Tourette’s Syndrome for generations to come.

    Gaia help our poor raped planet.


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