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Byron Shire
April 19, 2021

M’bah grandmother locks on to stop gas mining

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Jo Birtus and Jen Phillips locked on to an excavator. (supplied)
Jo Birtus and Jen Phillips locked on to an excavator. (supplied)

Pressure is mounting on gas miner Santos to abandon its gas project in the Pilliga with yet another two grandmothers locking on this morning.

Jen Phillips of Murwillumbah, NSW, and Jo Birtus of Bowen, Queensland, have locked on to an excavator inside Santos’ construction site for its Leewood CSG wastewater treatment facility.

The treatment facility is under construction as part of the broader plans for the 850 well Narrabri Gas Project, and the women have vowed to stay untill they are arrested.

This morning’s action follows news yesterday that mining company AGL would not be proceeding with its Gloucester gas project, an announcement that was greeted with delight by anti-gas activists.

Ms Phillips, a 54-year-old grandmother, said she was risking arrest to support the people of north west NSW in their fight against Santos.

‘I’m elated at the success of the Gloucester community in protecting their valley from AGL’s planned gasfield, especially following the success for my home region in creating a gasfield free Northern Rivers,’ Ms Phillips said.

‘Now I’m here to support people of north west NSW in their battle against Santos.

‘I’m taking this action for so many reasons, but the future for my grandchildren looms large.

‘CSG in the Pilliga risks damaging a vital recharge area the Great Artesian Basin. I could not sleep soundly at night knowing I did nothing against this threat to our nation’s future.’

Her lock-on companion Jo Birtus, a 55-year-old mother and wildlife carer from Bowen, QLD, said she had never been arrested in her life but had been driven to act ‘because of the many unacceptable threats coal seam gas brings’.

‘I’ve seen the impacts of the industry in QLD and I want to make sure we don’t see that repeated in NSW,’ she said.

‘Now that the community of NSW has had so many major victories against the coal seam gas threat, I want to be part of creating a gasfield free NSW.

‘It is daunting to take this action following the police brutality and the use of pepper spray on Monday but coal seam gas is such a danger to our land and water that it’s worth a personal risk and sacrifice.

On Monday, police used pepper spray on a 47-year-0ld woman while she was locked onto machinery at the site.

Kerri Tonkin, a 47-year-old grandmother from South Australia, said she had her hat and glasses ripped off by a policeman during the protest. The officer then sprayed capsicum spray into her eyes, mouth and face from just one inch away.

‘I’ve got a lot of damage to my eye,’ Ms Tonkin later told Fairfax Media. She also said she received scratches to her face and had her arm and shoulder wrenched by the policeman who later told her she was lucky not be Tasered.

Despite the risks, Ms Birtus said she was determined to take action.

‘Putting a gasfield in the largest remaining temperate woodland in Eastern Australia is a disastrous idea.

‘The Federal Government referral for the Narrabri Gas Project lists 10 endangered or vulnerable species that are likely to be significantly impacted by the proposal, including the Spotted-tailed Quoll and the Pilliga Mouse.’

The past month has seen 16 arrests of protestors at the Santos’ Leewood facility and hundreds of people participating in the actions.

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  1. From reports online,SANTOS workers are positioning vehicles so these protectors cannot be seen. Hoping no unwitnessed behaviour eventuates. Also,one protector has surrendered her shade umbrella. NOT GOOD


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