Fight against mining of coal and coal seam gas in north-west NSW

Issue 

The battle to save land and water in north-west NSW's Liverpool Plains, from coal and coal seam gas continues to be fought by Aboriginal communities, farmers, local councils and environmentalists.

People in Tamworth, Moree, Narrabri, Boggabri, Gunnedah, Quirindi and Toomelah are fighting coalmining in the Leard State Forest and the Shenhua Watermark coalmine near Gunnedah. They are battling huge coal seam gas (CSG) projects in the Pilliga and gas projects in Narrabri and Tamworth.

The area is a prime agricultural region, often referred to as the food bowl of Australia, and covers 1.2 million hectares. Farmers in the region produce crops that make beer, muesli, sunflower oil, corn flakes and cotton for clothing.

The Liverpool Plains is home to significant water reserves. Tim Duddy, a farmer and member of Caroona Coal Action Group, said the Liverpool Plains' underground water aquifers "are the most significant water resources in the Murray-Darling Basin”.

The land is home to the Gomeroi people, on Gamilaraay country. They have been centrally involved in protesting coal and gas projects.

There are many projects threatening land and water in the Liverpool Plains. The Shenhua Group were given approval for the huge Watermark coalmine in July. This project has been described as a “death warrant for the Liverpool Plains", and if it proceeds will destroy 789 hectares of an endangered ecological community, much of it box gum woodland, and 148 hectares of other woods.

Idemitsu and Whitehaven Coal are already mining coal in Leard State Forest and Santos is pushing the “biggest CSG proposal in the state — the Santos Narrabri Gas Project, in the Biliga [Pilliga]”. Santos is also proposing more coal seam gas mining around Moree.

The fight to protect the Liverpool Plains was waged in 2014 in the Leard State Forest by the local Gomeroi people, the Maules Creek Community Council, Lock the Gate, Greenpeace, 350.org, the Nature Conservation Council of NSW, The Wilderness Society and others.

There are already two open-cut coalmines operating in the Leard Forest, and a third, Whitehaven Coal's Maules Creek Project, is proceeding with a 2000 hectare mine in the heart of the forest, despite fierce protests. The venture is expected “to extract up to 13 million tonnes of coal annually and is estimated to produce greenhouse gas emissions of 30 million tonnes of C02 equivalent per year. The Maules Creek Coal Project is expected to operate in excess of 30 years.”

With the accelerating effects of coal and gas extraction on climate change being reported at UN Climate Summit in Paris, Australia's “mine at all costs” approach in the Liverpool Plains and other regions, is ecological lunacy.

People for the Plains, Caroona Coal Action Group, No CSG Narrabri group, Gamilaraay People and Clan Groups against Coal and CSG and others are campaigning against these coal and gas projects. An action in Narrabri on November 29 drew 200 people to demand an end to CSG developments, including a group of 20 Gamilaraay activists who travelled from Moree to attend.

The ABC is reporting that another deal has been struck for Whitehaven Coal to expand its operations in Maules Creek. A native title agreement between 18 Gomeroi Nation representatives and Whitehaven was signed on November 23. A group of about 20 Gomeroi people opposed to the process gathered outside to express their concern.

Details of the agreement will be available at the end of the year, but protests are set to continue over the agreement, with Australian Mining quoting one of the 18 applicants, Jason Wilson, as saying he “had not been a part of the negotiations over the past year and the agreement was not representative of the desires of the Gomeroi Nation”.

The Moree Champion quoted a concerned member of the Gamilaraay nation and Moree local, Paul Spearim, as saying: “We are having a meeting in December in Tamworth about the petition that we have circulating at the moment to fight CSG and also about what we have to do to try and get answers from the Goomeroi Native Title Group”.

People for the Plains, Caroona Coal Action Group, No CSG Narrabri group, Gamilaraay People and Clan Groups can all be found on Facebook to get involved in their campaigns.

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