by Kathleen Green
The invasion of the coal seam gas (CSG) mining industry is now coming closer to the Gold Coast, with exploration in Canungra, in Beechmont, in the Tweed and Byron Shire. Over 80% of the state of Queensland is under permit for mining or exploration for mining. This month’s guest speaker at Gecko House was Michael McNamara from the Lock the Tweed group. He is also on the Board of Lock the Gate Alliance, a national advocacy group opposing coal seam gas mining, particularly on agricultural land. Michael spoke about the coal seam gas industry and the Lock the Gate campaign, including a nine week blockade at Glenugie in the Clarence Valley, New South Wales and a blockade near Kyogle next to the Eden Creek State Forest.
Michael’s informative talk covered the differences between shale gas, tight sand gas and coal seam gas mining, which he described as a risky and dirty business. Coal seam gas is called unconventional due to the extraction process which involves fracking coal seams with water and chemicals to release the gas, not conventional gas, of which, there is an infinite supply in Bass Strait. Most CSG is exported with no benefit to you and I, and it is sold for less than what we pay for gas or any energy here. Australia has so many resources yet we pay premium price. And we have so many resources of clean, renewable energy that we can convert to renewables within 10 years in Australia, providing jobs and money. Coal seam gas mining, and coal mining have become the biggest environmental issues Australia and the world has ever faced. The damage caused to people and the environment is already evident and well documented. The burning of these fossil fuels in Australia and overseas is adding to global warming and climate change.
Not only rural areas are affected, now CSG is moving into Sydney and will be fracked under Campbelltown and Camden. Meanwhile gas is bubbling in the Sydney Nepean River from a nearby coal mine. The Blue Mountains has also been targeted. Nowhere is exempt from the CSG invasion. Tweed Shire and Byron Shire are areas where exploration permits have been issued. There is gas there, so expect it to be fracked, and it is next door to the Gold Coast, as is Canungra. The mining industry have been given free range of our best farmland and water, plus governments give large subsidies to the mining industry and in return, when those poll-u-ticians retire, many are given high paying positions on the Boards of mining companies.
The CSG industry also impacts on local land values, house prices, finance availability, insurance coverage, rental availability, cost of living, and the local workforce and existing local industries. Fly–in Fly-out (FIFO) workers do not spend in the local areas as work sites provide most of their needs and they are of no benefit to towns near the gas work sites. There are now domestic, social and alcohol issues at work sites.
There is great risk from CSG to Australia’s aquifiers under the Surat, Bowen and Galilee Basins, and the Fitzroy River, Dawson River, Gladstone Harbour, the Great Barrier Reef and Ipswich. Check out photos of the Fitzroy River at the Lock the Gate website. http://www.flickr.com/photos/lockthegatealliance/8353896678/in/set-72157632452707698
To combat the invasion of CSG, Lock the Gate Alliance formed and there are now approximately 170 small groups under the banner around Australia, rallying their communities to halt CSG in their area. Communities are furious at the bully tactics of mining companies to force their way on to land. The mining industry is now pushing against community groups every time they move into another area. This is not a good business model, it is an invasion, but communities are willing to stand their ground against the corporations. Out of this dirty business, has emerged stories of mateship on the blockade front line, stories of heroes locking themselves onto equipment, and stories of resolve to do this in a peaceful, non-violent manner. The non-violent tactics are unlike the Sydney riot squad that was sent to Glenugie to protect the Metgasco’s work site The riot police were not gentle in their arrests of protestors. After arresting protestors and taking them out of sight of their friends, the police beat a number of protestors before taking them to the police station. After this, all protestors had a buddy, to watch over each other, especially if one person was arrested. Their buddy would then follow the arresting police with their buddy and take photos and make sure the police know they were being photographed. There are now a number of protestors with photographic evidence of police brutality and they are laying charges against the police.
At this blockade there were people from many backgrounds and parts of Australia, ranging in age from 10 to 80, including groups that call themselves “Knitting Nannas against Gas” and “Chooks Against Gas”. Humour is an important ingredient in this fight against bully tactics. 24 people were arrested at the Glenugie blockade as of Friday 25th
January. The site has been drilled ready for a gas well, and the workers are packing up ready to move the drill rig to Metgasco’s next gas well work site near Kyogle, in the Eden Creek State Forest, (also known as Doubtful Creek), where farmers, town folk, city folk, and environmentalist stand shoulder to shoulder to block their entry. The average age of blockaders is 50.
I spent four days camping at the blockade camp near Kyogle. The landscape is lush and green, the air is clean, the silent night a welcome relief from the city noise and the birds woke us with their morning song. We saw the sunrise every morning, the sunset every night and we slept under the night sky dazzling with stars. The Kyogle community know that 28 families are now sick at Tara in Queensland, with bleeding from the ears and nose, constant headaches and rashes, seizures and then there is contaminated land and flammable bore water. Imagine if that was you sick, imagine if it was your children sick, imagine if you had to pack up and leave your home because it is making your family sick……well, we will all be sick, if we don’t stop coal seam gas mining…..its stop CSG or our farmland and water will become poisoned and unusable. You can register with the firstname.lastname@example.org
for updates of upcoming action at the Kyogle blockade.
The CSG industry covers many issues that affect us all. It may be out of sight for city folk but their water and food security are at high risk. Frack all the farmland and no food can be grown. Frack the underground water catchment areas, and we no longer have drinking water. Gas wells leak. This is why there has been a groundswell of people joining the Lock the Gate movement, people who have never protested before in their life. People who have never broken the law in their life are compelled to join the movement against CSG, and they are also calling for clean, renewable energy and the dropping of subsidies for the mining energies. What a joke, giving subsidies to an industry that now produces the highest output of dirty emissions.
A GetUp map of Australia shows the extent of coal seam gas deposits around Australia.
Go to the website for information and join http://www.lockthegate.org.au/join
Follow the Faceook site for information: https://www.facebook.com/groups/195834647104687/
While writing this article on the CSG invasion, on Australia Day, I was thinking of my father, and the many other men and women who fought in World War II to defend Australia from foreign invasion. My father was a POW in Changi gaol and on the Burma railway for near four years. It is Incredible that he and others survived. He came home to Australia, married and had six children. He worked tirelessly for his family and his country. When he passed away he was still on 11 community committees. He served as President of the Longford RSL sub-branch for 30 years, which he founded. He was awarded an OAM two years before he passed away. He loved Australia and the mateship of Aussies.
If he were alive today, he would be horrified that the Australian government is allowing the invasion by the coal seam gas industry into Australia, mostly foreign companies exporting our resources. He would want me and all other Aussies to stand up against this invasion by CSG, to keep our land as it is, and not allow it to be turned into a landscape of mines and gas fields that will poison the land, water, air and people.
Communities are now rallying together as if in a state of war, Gas Wars, and they will never give up because they know the consequences of this dirty business. The skills, research and time people are putting out to combat the mining industry spin is commendable. Community groups with little or no funding are up against companies that have unlimited funding for media spin. Spin that is in mainstream media, watched by people who believe everything they see and hear. So communities have to work harder to find ways to get the truth out to people about CSG. People who have never protested in their life have joined Lock the Gate. The Country Womens’ Association marched in a rally in Sydney for the first time in their history.
An example of the mining companies’ deceitful behaviour occurred in two mining advertisements, which were pulled from TV because the man speaking was not a farmer as he claimed to be, and not on his land as he claimed to be, and not living in a community. He claimed was happy to have CSG in their area. The real farmer was taking a much needed break from work, put up his feet to watch TV and in the advertisement saw that it was his land and his neighbour’s land and a man he had never seen before was claiming it to be his land. The mining company really thought that the advertisement would not be noticed as false. Their arrogance and blatant lies is an insult to the Australian people.
An article from New Independent Australia environment correspondent Sandi Keane, takes us through the dangerous and sometimes toxic world of coal seam gas and fracking. http://www.independentaustralia.net/2011/environment/coal-seam-gas-is-it-too-late-to-lock-the-gate/
There is no need to continue with dirty fossil fuels. According to Australian Conservation Foundation publication Habitat
,.”last year alone, the world saw about $260 billion in investment in renewable energy, eclipsing for the first time investment in fossil fuels.”
On Saturday night, a farmer rang me, who lives near the blockade at Eden Creek State Forest (near Kyogle, NSW). He updated me with details of how they have built more infrastructure at the site for the protestors and to keep out Metgasco’s drill rig. Due to the heavy rain, Metgasco is not expected to move their drill rig from Glenugie to Kyogle until the end of this week.
The farmer told me how this experience of blockading against CSG has changed his life. He has met such a diverse range of people from age 10 to 80 and the community is rallying together like he has never seen before. It bought him to tears, at the joy of knowing people will stand up and defend his part of the world – farmland which is very fertile, lush and green, pristine water and clean air. He describes it as an invasion by mining companies and we need an army to stop them. He said that even though the community is rallying, many more people are needed and he has asked me, begged me to rally Gold Coast people, to form an army, and get down to the blockade when called, to stop the invasion. When we stop them at this blockade, it is hoped that the mining industry will finally be deterred from continuing further.
On this Australia Day weekend, we are reminded of the courage, mateship and a sense of a fair go, that describes Australians. Peter, the farmer, is relying on that mateship to come to his and many other farmers’ rescue, who are being invaded by the coal seam gas industry. Please tell your family and friends to prepare to go to Kyogle, to stand up and defend Australia.
And, lastly, here is a 30 minute documentary from AlJazeera TV on the coal seam gas industry in Australia. http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/101east/2013/01/20131771222674145.html
Some of the world’s largest energy giants are moving into eastern Australia and investing billions of dollars to exploit coal seam gas reserves so vast they could rewrite the world’s energy map.
Despite the mining companies’ spin that they are generating massive amounts of revenue and creating thousands of new jobs, they are being met by a groundswell of public protest and a rising chorus of concern about the long-term impacts of coal seam gas extraction on the nation’s health, environment and land. Join the groundswell at www.lockthegatge.org.au
Kathleen Green (if you would like to be on my email list for updates on CSG and upcoming action, please email me on email@example.com