Mining takeover is in your backyard

Mining takeover is in your backyard

TALKING about Leard Forest, for those who haven’t been out there yet, I thought I would add a bit as I have been out to the forest multiple times.

Leard Forest is old growth white box-gum woodland which is very rare now. Most of this type of country has been cleared for farmland years ago except what was set aside in this forest or, to a very small degree, in a few travelling stock routes and the occasional small cemetery. 

Only 1 per cent remains in good condition and much of that one per cent is due to Leard, even though most people have never heard of that forest before. Leard has a huge number of hollows in trees (hollows only develop in trees after they reach about 100 years of age) and the community this forest represents is critically endangered – irreplaceable.

The nectar and hollows provide food and shelter for many vulnerable animals. Rare microbats and birds in particular will lose their home and food supply if the mines are developed. We don’t want to add to Australia’s already high extinction rate.

When most of us think bats, we think of fruit bats/flying foxes. The microbats are as small as half the palm of your hand. They are beautiful little creatures and the ones at Leard are quite varied. 

On a recent trip out there I saw 246 microbats collected overnight in only two harp traps and the diversity was amazing. I witnessed 11 different species of the 15 that occur at Leard. Watching the bats fly off to their hollows was spellbinding.

The chorus of birds early in the morning is more varied than I can ever remember elsewhere. Contrast that with being woken bolt upright in the night, literally standing with heart pumping ready to flee from imminent threat, by noise from mine vehicles. The mine noise has done that to me twice. It’s much worse than Pitt Street at rush hour. 

This forest is our land, our state forest. The government has given permission for us to be locked out and the guts of the forest, this rare ecological community, ripped out forever. For what? Twenty years of coal production from which we get little return. When 87 per cent of the mine is foreign-owned guess where the money goes? 

If one thinks of the mine as a big employer, think again. Only 2 per cent of the population is employed in mines. 

This is a fraction of the people employed in small business. If our coal resources are burned, wherever in the world, it will impact on us. The scientists have proved without a doubt that this is the case. We have other sustainable energy resources that are coming to the forefront. Coal is old dirty  technology. 

Leard is gathering young and old, locals and those from all over Australia and a range of experts associated with environmental organisations because this forest is that precious. The issues involved are that critical. Many people involved have never protested before. Like me, they know and love this country and are willing to stand up and say “no, mining in this forest is not okay”. 

I came to this country 45 years ago. I love this country. I’m a retired community dietician who is concerned about food security now and in the future. 

We need to protect our water and we need to support our farmers and small businesses or we won‘t be able to produce food. 

Mines are here today and gone tomorrow but farming and food production is a long term investment. The farms near Leard produce food for us but the mines are forcing long time farming families off the land. Mines destroy the land, leave a big hole kilometres wide and they require so much water that the water table on farms drops meters. There is a real risk to aquifers. You don’t grow food on subsoil using toxic water. Already the fine coal dust has been deposited on farmers’ roofs. That gets washed into the water and the dust also gets into peoples lungs and creates health issues. You only have to go to the Muswellbrook or Scone area to see the community destruction and hear about related health problems.

So while some people think it’s just greenies in the forest, the problems are much more widespread. All Australians need to be part of this protest. There’s more to this than birds, bats and special plants. This mining takeover is in your backyard and will affect you. 

Kate McLaren