Members of dozens of local Aboriginal Land Councils protested outside the office of the NSW Land Council on January 25. The peak body of Aboriginal affairs has been criticised for applying for exploration permits for uranium and coal seam gas in areas throughout NSW.
Chairperson of the Illawarra Local Aboriginal Land Council, Roy “Dootch” Kennedy, told Green Left Weekly they were protesting because of serious concerns about the effects of mining and the lack of consultation about the decision.
“The state Land Council applied for petroleum licences in NSW without first talking to the community about it. We found out through the media, so you can understand our concern at the local level that our peak body can’t inform us of their intentions.
“Most Aboriginal groups are opposed to mining because all we see is desecration of a lot of our culturally significant areas. The Illawarra is a very clear example of cultural desecration that has occurred.
“We want to have open discussions about this process. There may well be some group within the 119 Land Councils in the state that may want to take that as an option, but that’s certainly not the case with many of the Land Councils that I’ve been speaking to over the past few months.
“We want to open this up for discussion with the full Land Council network and look at the pros and cons of entering into mining at all. We know the dangers of coal seam gas mining and we’ve seen mine collapses just from coalmining.
“Hundreds of people have died in this region from that practice alone, but it’s not just that. These mines are very close to riverways and water reserves, water that we actually drink. The fear of further contamination is there, it is a reality for our community. Other communities need to be aware of some of the impacts of mining.
“We’ve had no control over these big multinational companies that have been tearing up our country. We have major concerns because of what we’ve already seen occur here where mines have hit the bottom of dams and sucked the water out of it. That water is then contaminated, you can’t recover it.”