The question of whether or not mining should be allowed in the Northern Rivers has once again been raised and the issue is being brought to the table in the NSW Parliament.
On October 14, at the Legislative Assembly, Lismore’s Labor MP Janelle Saffin presented a petition to ask for a moratorium on mining in the region. She defended, again, the fundamental need to protect the region’s water by banning any new mines or exploration in the future.
This moratorium on mineral mines in Northern Rivers intends to protect the water catchments of Clarence, Richmond, and Tweed river systems.
It is already well known that the Richmond River is not in good health. But the authorisation to explore and develop mineral mines in the region could be even more detrimental, and not just for the Richmond River.
According to Clarence Catchment Alliance (CCA), a volunteer group against mines, there is a real threat to ‘our local water security, environment, society, culture, and economy’.
The use of water
Mines use large quantities of water and after its use this wastewater are full of chemicals.
As CCA states, ‘chemicals used in processing include cyanide (gold) and sulphuric acid (copper) to separate the target mineral for the ore’.
Although wastewater is stored in man-made dams, an area such as the Northern Rivers is more at risk due to heavy rainfall and flood events. There is the significant risk that dams could leach or overflow into waterways.
CCA claims that it is even possible to find metals in water because of mines, leading to a metal presence in seafood.
The traces of metal can impact the health of the river, the wildlife, and even us.
‘Just one contamination incident could destroy existing local industries, our water resources, and our community’s health’, declared CCA.
‘The risk is just too high’.
A new petition leading to new hopes
Because of that, MP Saffin and CCA have put together a petition to implement a ban on mineral mines in the Northern Rivers.
As MP Saffin explained during the Legislative Assembly, the petition’s purpose is to ‘stop mining exploration or exploitation within the Clarence Valley and surrounding local government area, as it would endanger the good river health that is vital to fishing farming and tourism’.
It is also ‘to respect the traditional landowners of the area, being the Yaegl, the Gumbaynggirr and the Bundjalung First Nations peoples’ she added.
The petition received over 10,000 signatures from the local community.
The importance of presenting the petition to the Parliament ‘is to elevate the issue,’ Saffin explains. ‘The Parliament cannot itself stop the mining, but it raises the issue’.
Councils, such as Kyogle, Tweed Shire, or Coffs Harbour, have supported the petition.
Barilaro ignored constituents
However, former Deputy Premier John Barilaro has deliberately ignored the plea from the councils and the community in the past, according to MP Saffin.
Some, like Mr Christopher Gulaptis, MP for Clarence, argue that cobalt and copper mining is essential to the transition to renewables like solar panels.
MP Gulaptis has previously stated that extraction and mining should be studied and potentially accepted if it respects the environment.
But MP Saffin does not lose hope and will continue to advocate for the region.
It is not her first movement against ‘gold, silver copper and cobalt diggers’. She previously worked to repel the Coal Seam Gas (CSG) industry in the region, which threatened water resources.
Currently, three companies are undertaking mineral exploration in Northern Rivers, according to Mr Paul Toole, Deputy Premier, Minister for Regional Transport and Roads and Minister for Regional New South Whales.
Now that the petition has been presented to the Parliament, the moratorium against mines in Northern Rivers is sent to the NSW Government.