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Issue #1543      18 April 2012

Elders say they’ll fight mining plan

Aboriginal Elders in northern New South Wales say they’ll mobilise community support for their anti-mining message, after meeting with the statewide land body over its hopes to explore the region for gas and petroleum.

Bundjalung man Reg King. (Photo: Koori Mail)

The NSW Aboriginal Land Council (NSWALC) sparked a flurry of protests when it announced last month it had applied to the state government for three exploration licences; one covering a 368,340 square kilometre area near White Cliffs, one covering a 47,040 square kilometre area south south-west of Grafton, and a third covering a 1,330 square kilometre area outside Murwillumbah.

The umbrella body for more than 100 local Aboriginal land councils throughout the state, NSWALC conceded the applications represented “a paradigm shift” in its activities but said they had the potential, if granted, to greatly enhance the economic fortunes of Aboriginal people in those areas.

It is negotiating with a major developer who it has so far declined to name.

A fortnight ago, NSWALC chief executive Geoff Scott fronted a meeting in Lismore to hear Elders and other community representatives vent their frustration at not having been consulted before the applications were lodged, and the potential for any eventual related mining activity to involve extraction of coal seam gas (CSG) via fracking. A major community-driven campaign has continued to draw attention to the negative impacts of the controversial practice, including potential contamination of water bodies if accidentally permeated by toxic gas.

Senior Bundjalung woman and grandmother of 11 Patsy Nagas said after last week’s meeting that about 60 of the 70 people who attended were opposed to the direction being taken by NSWALC.

“Everyone had a say and they were all virtually of the same mind; they were all against it,” Ms Nagas told the Koori Mail newspaper.

“We’ve been protesting now for at least a year against coal seam gas. It’s just a ‘no’ decision from us.

“Geoff Scott said something at the meeting about petroleum... I don’t know anything about the petroleum so can’t really comment there, but it’s still mining to me, which I don’t want to happen.

“This is both an environmental and cultural issue; they want to come through land that is the spiritual country of people around the north coast.”

Ms Nagas said she knew the exploration licence applications did not necessarily equate to mining – there are no guarantees they’ll be granted. And she said it was good that Mr Scott had spoken to community members soon after the announcement.

“But my issue is that Geoff Scott hadn’t talked to anyone up in this area first,” she said.

“Let me reiterate that the man himself personally doesn’t want coal seam gas mining; he has a job to do.

“His idea is that it might as well be blackfellas who get the licences, because they’ll care more about what happens to the land, but I’m still against.

“I don’t see Aboriginal beliefs co-existing with mining anywhere. Mining not only destroys country, it also destroys the spirit of the land.

“We’re going to fight to the end. It’s not just the Aboriginal people who are fighting it. I can honestly say that 75 percent of this community of Kyogle and this whole district are against coal seam gas and mining.”

Another Bundjalung Elder opposed to the NSWALC’s attempts to use mining to potentially “get a seat at the table” in terms of economic development was Lismore-based Reg King.

He attended the meeting too, to ensure his voice was heard.

Earlier, he told the Koori Mail that he didn’t want CSG mined on his country because of the damage it had caused in other countries like America.

“All the sickness it will cause, our land will be worth nothing,” he said. 

“All of our bush food will be gone.

“I tell you, I’ll move out of the area if it’s signed and sealed, and this is my own country! I’m a Cubawee boy. I was born and bred here.

“They never told us what was going on. This is not the Aboriginal way.

“I’m calling on all of my people to stand up and be counted. The dollar is the root of all evil. I’m very upset about this.”

Mr Scott told the Koori Mail there was little opportunity to consult communities before lodging the applications, literally a window of just a few hours.

However, he said NSWALC wanted to hear what local communities had to say on the subject and they would be listened to.

Ms Nagas said she had invited organisers of a local anti-CSG group to her local Gugin Gudduba land council at Kyogle, “so they can further educate my people as to why we have to stand against this”.

“I’m doing this for our young people. They need to learn now about environmental destruction before it’s too late,” she said.

Koori Mail  

Next article – Robespierre – Bourgeois Revolutionary (Part 1)

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