The Student Environment Action Collective (SEAC) of the University of Sydney hosted a public forum titled “Our Water, Our Land, Our Future” on April 19. The forum discussed the effects of coal seam gas (CSG) mining and the campaign against it in Sydney and NSW. Speakers included the NSW Farmers’ Federation’s Brianna Casey and Charles Thomas, along with Jacinta Green of Stop CSG Sydney.
The farmers’ federation speakers told of the effects of CSG mining on agriculture and rural communities. Notably, CSG mining poses a serious risk to the aquifers that many rural communities rely on for their water supplies. Aquifers can suffer from depressurisation, depletion and contamination. CSG mining could extract up to 5400 gigalitres of water every year and there is no safe and reliable way to store this huge amount of toxic wastewater.
Landholders’ rights were another serious concern expressed at the meeting. Farmers and communities have been lied to and cheated by CSG companies. In some cases, landholders have been told they are not allowed to use the access roads that CSG companies build on their land.
Green described plans to drill in St Peters in Sydney and the community campaign that has mobilised against it. Dart Energy is projecting to build 10 wells in Sydney this year, but, unsurprisingly, the exact details are unknown to the public.
She said the whole community needed a guarantee of the right to information about these projects and the power to veto them. She said that the potential drill sites in Sydney have the permission of the landholder, but the surrounding community who will be affected by the mining have never been consulted and have no real voice in the matter.
All the speakers urged the audience to attend the May 1 Stop CSG rally in Martin Place, Sydney, which will include a big contingent of farmers.
As proof of the strength of this movement, Green told of how she had received pleas from minerals mining companies to give them training on how to talk to communities that were refusing to speak to any mining company representatives for fear that they were CSG companies.