Day 272

NSW Minerals Council CEO Stephen Galilee said approval of the mining projects show that responsible mining, rigorously assessed and properly managed, can continue to deliver jobs, investment and economic growth for NSW.

A couple of weeks ago, a visitor dropped into our bush camp stationed on the edge of the Leard State Forest. “It’s very difficult to go from $1500 a week to nothing,” he told us.

The visitor, who used to be a truck driver at the Tarrawonga coal pit, also told us that the workers had been warned not to litter on the side of the roads, at least until the mine expansion gained approval. It makes us wonder if the lay-offs at Whitehaven’s Tarrawonga mine were also held off until after approval.

Our visitor was one of 30 people who lost their jobs at the Tarrawonga mine, with no warning and just a white envelope handed to them – the only logic about who lost their jobs seeming to be about who spoke out. From what we’ve heard, there are a lot fewer issues being raised among the workforce now – everybody is keeping their heads low.

Two weeks later, the Boggabri coal mine also slashed 106 jobs. Neither mine will be reducing their production levels, but instead bringing in machines to replace human beings. It seems that the mining companies are just as committed to employment as they are to protection of natural assets like water and forests.

Anecdotally, public sentiment in Narrabri has started to change as well. A lot of people have been opposed to coal and gas expansion because of serious impacts like depopulation of farms, destruction of landscapes, deterioration of air quality, increased costs and depressurisation of the water table. Some accepted the new mines because of the promises made of jobs and growth. Now the narrative is starting to fade and reality is starting to kick in. What the future of the area will be like in twenty or thirty years’ time when the mines are gone is anybody’s guess.

In the forest, Idemitsu is fencing off more public land as they prepare to slash and bulldoze more forest. This time, the buffer zone around the area marked up for clearing is so large that it will be invisible from outside the fence. Perhaps it’s a form of mitigation – if nobody can see it, where’s the problem?

Our camp has had a visit from Japanese campaigners and ideas have been thrown around about ways in which a Japanese-Australian alliance can help protect our land, Japanese health and the global climate. We can see clearly how we can stop the Maules Creek mine, but the Boggabri expansion is a bit more tricky – now, a plan is being developed.

We’re hoping to have another forest gig at the end of June, but don’t wait until then to come and help stop mining on public land! We’ll definitely keep everyone posted – if you want to help out, drop us an email.