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.
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.
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.
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