Protest to rival Eureka
MINING opponents believe their fight against coal seam gas exploration and extraction could rival the Eureka Stockade.
Meeting last week in Mirboo North, opponents and concerned citizens viewed the documentary, The Battle for a CSG-free Northern Rivers, which concerns coal seam gas mining in New South Wales.
But coal seam gas opponent Gill Fox said the film had relevance for the entire country, especially South Gippsland.
“We’re getting sold off to China. They set up all these mines and they come and knock on your door, telling you, ‘We don’t use chemicals.’ But it’s a lot of hoo-ha,” she said.
“They come in, deplete the land. There’s people up north committing suicide because of this. We don’t want it down here. They’re picking prime land. We’re not going to get out of this lightly.
“This is going to be as big as the Eureka Stockade, believe me it will be.”
The Eureka Stockade is etched in Australia’s history – and the national psyche – as one of the country’s great battles, both in a literal and ideological sense.
Ironically, perhaps, it was the miners who were the heroes of the tale – with 25,000 gold miners rising up against the tyranny of a government that continued to take from them through unreasonable licensing agreements.
Twenty-two diggers and five troopers were killed in the resultant skirmish. But many believe the fight led to the birth of democracy in the colony.
“The more we’ve got into it, the bigger it’s got and the scarier it’s got. A miner who came to one of our meetings told me that his company had just capped off a drilling site. I asked him where, but he wouldn’t say. But as he was leaving he said, ‘It’s closer than you think’,” Ms Fox said.
She said a friend came across miners near Ricardo Road in Mirboo North who claimed they were searching for silica for toothpaste. She is disbelieving.
The showing of the documentary was for the purpose of informing people of the risks, but also mobilising them into action, Ms Fox said.
She is backed in the campaign against coal seam gas mining by Mirboo North farmer Phil Piper, whose land is under a mining tenement. He only learnt of it when he was contacted by a journalist in March last year.
Part of the fear of the coal seam gas mining centres around ‘fracking’ (a controversial process whereby miners fracture rocks with chemicals to extract minerals). Fracking has been banned in some countries, with concerns raised that it may pollute underground water sources.
Mr Piper knows of only one way to stop miners gaining access to his property: “You lock the gate.”
He said a deputation will go to the next South Gippsland Shire Council meeting on June 27 to express their concerns.
Ms Fox said she was still travelling around, telling as many people as she could about the perceived risks of coal seam gas exploration. So many people had never heard anything about it, she said.
Mr Piper said politicians had turned a blind eye to the issue.
“Peter Ryan (Deputy Premier and Member for Gippsland South) says there’s no problem. I believe they don’t speak against it because there’s so much money in it,” he said.
Ms Fox said she had never protested against anything in her life, but the threat of what coal seam gas mining could do to the region was reason enough.
“I’m just an ordinary person. I’m just a normal everyday person. But this is scary,” she said.
Another coal seam gas mining opponent, Kath Goller, described the problem as an “unnatural disaster”.
“Until awareness is raised, they’ve got a free run. There’s tenements all around,” she said.
Short URL: http://thestar.com.au/?p=3738