ANOTHER day and another protest. If it is not in our own backyard, it is somewhere else like Queensland, where the conflict between mining, coal seam gas and farming is just as intense.
The farmers and conservationists who gathered at Boggabri yesterday to make their point raised another issue in this debate – that is, the public health impact of mining on nearby residents.
This has been a major issue in the Hunter Valley.
It has been raised in reports and government inquiries.
The health issues raised at Boggabri are causing genuine concerns in the mine’s neighbouring farming community.
With the mine wanting to expand, and with a decision on that application expected soon, the farmers say they are not being listened to.
The conflict between miners, farmers, conservationists and mine neighbours is being fought on three fronts.
Farmers want productive land and aquifers protected.
Conservationists want forests and sensitive ecosystems preserved.
And residents want to ensure their health is being protected and not sold out for lucrative royalties.
What makes this issue unique is the combatants – all from different positions and with different priorities, but all united.
It is rare to see conservationists and green groups protesting with farmers.
Mostly the two fraternities disagree, with farmers arguing that their livelihoods are dependent on them looking after the land and they don’t need to be told what to do by environmentalists.
The other key player in this debate is the state government, and it is in a no-win situation.
So concerning is the march of coal mining and coal seam gas exploration and production across rural areas that the warring parties are easily defined.
There are no grey areas in this battle.
Lock the Gate Alliance president and founder Drew Hutton has correctly identified the Gunnedah Basin as the epicentre of the battleground.
It is the new frontier for miners, with huge resources which can sustain the industry over generations in the region.
The protests will continue.
The protests will be more frequent and more widespread.
Mr Hutton says the battle to protect farming and conservation land and aquifers from coal mining and coal seam gas production is the biggest environmental issue Australia has seen in 100 years.
Few would disagree.
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