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Byron Shire
December 5, 2021

Should the Northern Rivers be opening up to mines?

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Anti-mining protest sign on the Liverpool Plains. Photo Lock the Gate.

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.

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  1. If the people who want to keep manufacturing more and more cars even in a climate emergency, are to get their way, then there is going to need to be more and more mines. Especially when they advocate electric vehicles and the massive upgrade to the grid system that is required to facilitate this.

    Janelle and Labor have a policy to continue car dependence with EVs, so this is just a NIMBY campaign.

    Janelle should tell us who she thinks should have to have the copper mine in their village. Bougainville? PNG? East Timor? Tasmania?

  2. Where is the petition ?
    I will sign, we need to band together, this effects all of us in Northern NSW.
    I’m south of Coffs in Bellingen.
    Water across all of Australia needs to be protected.

  3. Can we introduce in that moriturium a legal precedence introducing what Legal experts worldwide now define and embrace as Ecocide: an “unlawful or wanton acts committed with knowledge that there is a substantial likelihood of severe and widespread or long-term damage to the environment being caused by those acts”.

    Ecocide introduces a new non-anthropocentric approach, namely putting the environment at the heart of international law, and so that is original and innovative. We are dependent for our wellbeing on the wellbeing of the environment and that we have to use various instruments, political, diplomatic but also legal to achieve the protection of the environment.”

    Jojo Mehta, from Stop Ecocide Foundation, said “The resulting definition of Ecocide is well pitched between what needs to be done concretely to protect ecosystems and what will be acceptable to states. It’s concise, it’s based on strong legal precedents and it will mesh well with existing laws. Governments will take it seriously, and it offers a workable legal tool corresponding to a real and pressing need in the world.”
    (Excerpt taken from The Guardian 22/6/21).
    Sue M

  4. This is SO WRONG. first they want to get rid of trees because Koalas have more than enough. Now they want to tear out the trees and mine? Where do these people get off on such behavior? How much money has to be leached from a landscape yet to fully recover from the last heat incursions. Fracking is a despicable practice and now a incandescent lightbulb moment to take, steal, pass around amongst like minded shallow business practices and profits to lubricate accountants, subsidy endorsed incentives, pretax fossil fuel intensive pillaging. what more do they want? We should not be walked over by behemoths lacking the judgement we are an area in a country where water is at a premium. There is more to this country where their children can really connect with country rather than National Geographic Channel streaming in the city. Out of sight out of concern. If we can shake off ideals, forget politicians seeking to divide and councils being breached. Where State Laws trump Federal Laws. We live here. It is our water, our topsoil, First Nation Land & Laws. Country for LIFE not profits. It seems they forgot Bentley.


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