Day 3 – a visit from the mine

The moon hasn’t risen yet over the mine-pit – for a while we thought it was mine-lights but when it rises, the waning moon provides good light out here at Leard State Forest. The mines themselves let out an eery glow, obscuring some of the stars, although it is still more starry here than in any city.

About midday today we got a visit from the mine manager and another manager of Idemitsu’s Boggabri mine, the closest mine to our camp, brandishing a letter warning us that although the mine respected our right to protest, they believed that if we crossed into the fenced public land that surrounds the mine, we would be committing trespass. The mine itself is not allowed to buy the land where their mine sits, because it is still part of the State Forest – nevertheless, they have erected a fence. They were very eager to talk about how impressive their post-mine regeneration is – they told us they had built a plantation of three tree species over a mix of topsoil and overburden, and that after four years of regeneration in an area they have already mined, they even found an echidna recently – proof positive that the critters are returning to the forest! It was a little difficult not to scoff, but we kept the conversation friendly.

Idemitsu claims no responsibility for the management of the Tarrawonga mine, of which they own 30% – in the mine manager’s words, “they just send us a cheque every year”. They mustn’t know much about the mine’s future plans either. Last year, the Nature Conservation Council exposed Idemitsu for claiming that the land where the Tarrawonga mine sits would act as a rehabilitation zone for the Boggabri mine, despite the fact that Tarrawonga wants to keep mining for another 23 years. If Idemitsu genuinely believe that they are not responsible for the management of Tarrawonga mine, they are dead wrong – under tort law, all owners of a development, including major and minor shareholders, are liable for impacts and breaches.

Today’s Sydney Morning Herald’s expose on ICAC’s investigation on politicians’ back-handed deals with the coal industry should serve as a warning for the owner of the proposed new mine in Leard Forest, Nathan Tinkler, who has made former Deputy Prime Minister Mark Vaile the head of Whitehaven Coal, and used BKK resources, who number former Treasurer Peter Costello among their six-member directorship, to offer investment advice on the Maules Creek coal project. But Tinkler is probably more pre-occupied with his embarrassing loss in the Supreme Court yesterday, which forced him to complete a $20 million purchase of land he no longer needs for his failed coal terminal project. Little wonder he begged for more time to pay for purchasing a Queensland coal company five days ago. Tinkler used to be into horse-gambling – I’d be betting on a Front Line Action on Coal victory!

The mine manager left us to get lunch ready with a few parting words. He told us that they’d worked harder than any of the other mines at working with the local community and looking after the forest, “but we’re the ones getting the protestors!”. Sorry, Idemitsu, but that’s just what happens when you’re the first big new coal mine in the Gunnedah basin, the biggest mine project with a lease covering most of the forest.

The freelance journalist who writes for the Namoi Valley Independent returned today – he told us to expect a page 1 and 2 article on the camp. Not all of their articles are posted online though, so you’re much better off coming out to camp!