From the Newsroom

This map from the NSW Minerals Strategy shows the location of “high-tech metals in NSW”. The blue and green dot near Grafton indicates cobalt and scandium deposits. The shaded yellow and orange areas designate gold and copper, respectively, “based on quantity of current resources and/or historical production”.

Anti-mining debate finishes in a ‘draw’

Geoff Helisma

Debate about the Clarence Catchment Alliance’s (CCA) petition calling for the cessation of mineral mining and exploration in the Clarence River catchment took place in the NSW Legislative Assembly on Thursday October 14.

“It being 4pm, private members’ statements are now interrupted for the consideration of the paper petition signed by 10,000 or more persons listed on the business paper regarding Clarence Valley mining,” the deputy speaker said.

The petition, which was “noted” following debate, was lodged by Lismore MP Janelle Saffin (Labor), who described the Clarence River as the “biggie” of the region’s namesake, the Northern Rivers.

“Those rivers are our lifeblood, sustaining livelihoods and lives,” she said.

“…I have yet to see a clean water mining site or a site where the water has not been depleted [by mining].

“We are told that mining will bring jobs – and, yes, it will bring a few; but think of the thousands of traditional and sustainable jobs that will be lost if we have our waters polluted.

“If we let our water be degraded then we risk our heritage and the ongoing industries right across the region of dairy, fishing, cattle, sugarcane, blueberries, macadamias, timber and tourism.”

Commending the Clarence Catchment Alliance (CCA) for the “voluntary work that it has undertaken to improve and protect our community” she said CCA’s “evidence-based and informative” petition “is all aimed at looking after our water health”.

“It notes the potential to pollute the waters and that some mining measures would involve decimation of plateaus, causing large amounts of sediment run-off that could contain dangerous minerals and chemicals,” she said.

“…The mighty Clarence flows from the McPherson Range and snakes its way with many tributaries through Tenterfield and Kyogle and under the Tabulam Bridge—all areas in my electorate of Lismore.

“…My call to action today is to protect our water; today the focus is on the Clarence River catchment, which locals want to protect from mineral mining impacts.”

Ms Saffin said that two other proposed mining developments in her electorate – in the Drake (Tenterfield) and Tweed shires – for “gold and silver among other things”, covers “a 118‑square‑kilometre area including 16 suburbs and villages and, can you believe it, Murwillumbah itself”.

“In Drake, which is in my electorate, local fishermen remember as if it were yesterday the arsenic leaking from the Mount Carrington mine at Drake in the 1970s and the mutated seafood,” she said.

Speaking against the petition, Member for Clarence Chris Gulaptis (Nationals) congratulated CCA for its “extraordinary efforts” which he said were “worthy of debate”

He extolled his “love” of the Clarence Valley, where he has lived for “the past 40 years”.

“I love it because of its natural beauty and the people who want to preserve its character and lifestyle,” he said.

“I say this with all due respect to the signatories, as someone who is not pro‑mining, has no premeditated agenda and wants to be objective: I find it very difficult to accept the argument put forward by the petitioners to stop, point blank, all mining in the Clarence Valley and surrounding local government area [LGA].

“It argues for no mining in the whole of the Clarence LGA, not just the water catchment but the whole 10,500 square kilometres of the LGA—no mining, no discussion, end of story.”

Mr Gulaptis said that the state’s “rigorous planning and assessment system” would protect the river and that a development application [DA] to construct a mine should “be judged on its own merit, not discarded without the right to be considered” and it would have to “satisfy local and state planning policies and legislation before it can proceed”.

“…until we have an actual DA to approve a mining activity … we do not know what is to be extracted,” he said.

“How it is going to be extracted, what measures are proposed to mitigate damage to the environment, what traffic will be generated, what jobs will be created, what benefits there are to the local economy, whether there has been consultation with the community or whether the proponent has a social licence?”

He said, “The current exploration licences in the Clarence Valley are for metals with high technology applications, like copper and cobalt.

“If we want solar panels, batteries to store electricity, microchips for computers and electric cars, then these are the exact resources we need.

“If we can extract them without impacting on our environment, then we are well on the road to achieving net‑zero emissions by 2050.”

However, Mr Gulaptis ended his argument by saying he would “do everything I can to protect” the Clarence Valley’s “natural environment” if it is threatened by mining activity.

This map from the NSW Minerals Strategy shows the location of “high-tech metals in NSW”. The blue and green dot near Grafton indicates cobalt and scandium deposits. The shaded yellow and orange areas designate gold and copper, respectively, “based on the quantity of current resources and/or historical production”.