When community groups form to campaign on issues they are passionate about, there are always detractors, and the current anti-mining campaign being run in the valley by the Clarence Catchment Alliance is no different in that respect.
What is different in this instance, is that during more than three years of campaigning there has been an almost total lack of opposition.
However, milestone events recently, including Clarence Valley Council’s call for a moratorium, and the handing over of a 10,000 signature-plus petition to the NSW State Parliament, has drawn some criticism.
One business group has criticised Council’s decision, arguing the community’s views should have been sought, even though one would have thought 10,000 signatures was a fair indication of that community’s view. Coal seam gas driller, Metgasco, was similarly welcomed by the business community some years ago, and history shows the business sector was way out of step with the community’s views on that issue, so it seems little has changed.
Those speculating on the Stock Exchange, where shares in local exploration companies are trading below $0.05, also stand to suffer financially, and would likewise be unhappy about any local opposition to mining.
The reality is, there are always environmental risks from mining, and no matter how robust the imposed conditions are, accidents will continue to occur, even here in Australia. Those risks are enhanced by factors such as steep terrain, high rainfall and unstable soils, all of which apply to the Clarence Valley.
Well over 100,000 people depend on the catchment for drinking water. Irrigators, commercial and recreational fishers, tourism, other agribusiness and more, all depend on that water for their livelihoods and wellbeing.
The Clarence River itself has enormous spiritual significance to the valley’s three first nations peoples, and is recognised world-wide as a biodiversity hotspot, both on land and in the marine environment.
There are protected wild rivers, world heritage rainforests, nature reserves and national parks, all of which are too precious to be placed at risk from mining, and clearly, more than 10,000 people agree.
- John Edwards