Lock the Gate Alliance

Protesters rallied outside an October 7 NSW Independent Planning Commission (IPC) public hearing in Mudgee into plans to construct a huge new coalmine in the picturesque Bylong Valley, north-east of the regional town.

The Ngara Institute’s annual Activist of the Year award was shared by the Knitting Nannas Against Gas, whose creative and persistent nonviolent strategies have been so important at blockades and protests, and Annie Kia, who developed the hugely successful “neighbour to neighbour” community engagement process for Lock the Gate.

The award was presented on June 30 at Ngara’s annual lecture in Mullumbimby, presented by former Human Rights Commissioner Gillian Triggs.

An open letter from eight former agronomists and soil scientists, including five who worked for the Department of Primary Industries, has urged NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian to halt Shenhua’s Watermark coalmine and protect the Liverpool Plains from mining.

The letter said the agreement the government reached last month with Shenhua to renew its coal exploration licence, paving the way for the mine to proceed, puts at risk “the future of one of the major contributors to food and fibre security”.

Liverpool Plains farmers have reacted angrily to NSW resources minister Don Harwin’s announcement on July 12 that it will buy back only half of the Shenhua coal exploration licence covering the Liverpool Plains. This means that the government is allowing an open-cut coalmine in NSW’s food bowl.

The NSW government will pay $262 million to buy back 51% of Shehua’s exploration licence. However, as eight years have passed without the coal giant starting “substantial development”, the government could simply cancel its exploration licence without compensation.

Korean state-owned miner KEPCO and its contractor Worley Parsons were prosecuted by the NSW Department of Industry's Division of Resources and Energy (DRE) in March, after it was revealed the companies had used fake photographs purporting to be of a Bylong property at which they were seeking permission to drill for coal.

The photographs were not of the property, and showed an environment completely unlike the area they were seeking permission to drill in. When DRE was alerted to this by the affected landholder, charges were laid against the companies.

About 100 protesters, adorned in yellow and black berets, skirts, scarves, blouses, dresses and umbrellas gathered outside the Santos HQ near Circular Quay on May 4 to tell Santos to frack off from the Pilliga, near Narrabri. With them, sitting in a nearby tree, was a huge koala — symbolising one the endangered species whose habitat is being destroyed.

Protests were also held in Brisbane, Newcastle and at the company’s headquarters in Adelaide where the new CEO was fronting his first AGM. Santos has lost more than $1 billion on its coal seam gas (CSG) project at Narrabri.

Queensland Natural Resources and Mines minister Anthony Lynham announced on April 18 that the government has banned underground coal gasification (UCG) in the state, arguing the environmental risks outweigh the economic benefits.

He said the ban, which would apply immediately as government policy, would be legislated by the end of the year.

Underground coal gasification involves converting coal to a synthesised gas by burning it underground. The syngas is processed on the surface to create products such as aviation fuels and synthetic diesel.

“Coal seam gas in New South Wales is dead in the water”, Julie Lyford, spokesperson for Groundswell Gloucester, said after AGL announced on February 4 it was quitting Gloucester.

AGL had planned to drill at 300 sites in a geologically complex and rich farming region north-west of Newcastle. It had been facing fierce opposition for conducting tests in the Gloucester region under PEL 285.

The decision has been welcomed by anti-coal seam gas (CSG) campaigners across NSW. AGL's licence was due for renewal on February 22.

About 50 people attended the Queensland Water Summit in Dalby on September 23. Despite its midweek timing, a wide range of people attended from across the state, including farmers threatened by increasingly severe drought and mining company pollution of their water sources, to community members, doctors and clergy from communities impacted by coal seam gas, underground coal gasification and coalmining.

The summit was organised and funded by independent Senator Glenn Lazarus, who spoke briefly but mostly listened to the concerns raised by attendees.

More than 1000 people rallied on September 20 to declare Victoria free of coal seam gas. Sixty-seven communities have already declared themselves gasfield free. Many regional councils across Victoria are also opposed to coal seam gas.

The rally vowed to stop unconventional gas drilling, or fracking, from gaining a foothold and demanded the state government ban unconventional gas in Victoria.

Drew Hutton, from Lock The Gate Alliance, said: “This is an historic moment. This state is officially going to become a gasfield-free state.

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