As representatives of the mining industry, mining-related businesses and state and local government gathered at the Mudgee Mines conference in Parklands yesterday, members of the public protested outside the gates to show their concern over the social and environmental effects of mining expansion on the region.
The “alternative conference”, which also included a rally in Lawson Park yesterday afternoon, was convened by Mid-Western Region environment and community action groups.
The ‘people’s conference’ presented in response to the Mudgee Mining conference started yesterday with a protest across the road from Parklands Resort.
Speakers from a number of community groups stepped one by one onto the back of a ute to address a crowd of residents concerned about the growing presence of mines around Mudgee.
Many carried placards and banners with slogans such as “No More Mines Near Mudgee”, “Coal Costs The Earth” and “Food Bowl Not Coal Hole”.
“We have to do something ourselves to shape the future we want,” said Bylong Valley Protection Aliance spokesman Craig Shaw. “Because if we don’t, it will certainly be shaped for us by the people across the road.”
He said it was time to speak out when a private company thought it could run a conference in Mudgee discussing ways mining could make money from the region.
I will keep fighting for you in the NSW parliament.
“We will stay strong, stay united, we will win this battle..
Greens spokesman Jeremy Buckingham said 10 years ago it was considered sacrilegious to criticise coal mining - “You were considered a radical, you were considered a ratbag” - but today it looked increasingly sensible.
“We are winning this fight,” he said.
“I will keep fighting for you in the NSW parliament.
“We will stay strong, stay united, we will win this battle.”
The protesters were joined by David Clarke of the NSW Farmers Association, who admitted that farmers and environmentalists might not agree on all his points, but he feared the community of the future would look back on today’s unrestrained mining activity and ask “What did we do that for?”
“Mining comes, it causes a boom, then it moves on, but food and fibre production is there forever,” Mr Clarke said.
Mr Clarke told the crowd only seven per cent of NSW was high in water and had good soil quality, and still less was exceptional prime land.
“Mining and agriculture are in total conflict over that seven per cent,” he said.
“They’re interested in taking the same country that we are dependent upon to provide our food and fibre.”
Dave Burgess, one of two protesters who painted “No War” on the side of the Sydney Opera House in 2003, told the group the battle for regional NSW would be won outside the cities, with events such as Tuesday’s protest.
While he said the media and the industry of “outrage management” tried to make cautioning against coal look un-Australian or treasonous, “the important thing is not to stay shut up, not to be disheartened.”
In closing, he said, “Stay busy - you’ll be exhausted, but don’t get disheartened.”
The protesters chanted, “No more mines near Mudgee!” as they marched from Parklands to Lawson Park, where further speakers gave presentations on mining and the environment at a free three-hour outdoor alternative mining conference.