From the Newsroom

Speakers for and against mining in the Clarence

Geoff Helisma

Ballina MP Tamara Smith (Greens) said she “did not share the member for Clarence’s trust or faith in our planning system,”.

She said the petition was signed by over 10,000 “individuals, organisations, businesses and councils that are concerned about the impact of mining in the Clarence region”.

“If members want to talk about the social licence, there it is,” she said.

She said the Clarence Valley is “home to some of Australia’s most beautiful and endangered creatures”.

She “recognised” that the “Yaegl, Bundjalung and Gumbaynggirr nations … have lived, loved and protected the [river and its] flood plains for over 60,000 years”.

“Aboriginal people have told us of the significance of this area,” she said.

“If the Minister for Planning and Public Spaces [Rob Stokes] does not amend schedule 1 of the New South Wales State Environment Planning Policy, to add mineral mining and mineral exploration in the Clarence catchment as prohibited development, we will see even more harm caused to the traditional custodians of this country.”

Dubbo MP Dugald Saunders (Nationals) reiterated Mr Gulaptis’s argument and that “we are talking about exploration at this point in time”.

“His point was that you can have it all,” he said.

“A government’s role is to promote business and investment in a way that can work for everyone.”

Mentioning the 2019 NSW Minerals Strategy, which “outlines just how our state can unlock the benefits of all the potential high‑tech mineral deposits”, he said minerals like lithium, cobalt and “traditional metals like copper”, were needed “to be dug up from somewhere in a safe way”.

He said, “The petition would cut off vital investment dollars and deprive an important area of New South Wales from playing its role in the push towards a renewable future.

“Let’s be sensible; let’s look at ways we can explore and do things together for the betterment of all our communities.”

Murray MP Helen Dalton (Shooters, Farmers and Fishers) said the petitioners and those who signed it “understand that water underpins all of our prosperity and sustainability”.

“It puts at risk not just the natural environment but also the farmlands and the communities that depend on it,” she said.

“Of course, I am not against mining in principle.

“The wealth from within the earth is as essential to our society as the wealth we grow on the earth.

“Mining offers jobs, income and even—historically, at least—a sense of community, identity and pride among the workers.

“But we have to be smart; we have to be strategic about where we site our mines, and the catchment of our State’s second largest river is not a smart choice.”

Bathurst MP, Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional NSW Paul Toole (Nationals), said he “will clarify a few facts” and that “it is crucial that we continue to take advantage of metals with high‑technology applications, such as copper and cobalt”.

“The active exploration licences over the areas in question are entirely consistent with the NSW Minerals Strategy,” he said.

He said there were “no mining proposals, and only three companies are undertaking mineral exploration on active exploration licences” and that the “stringent regulations for monitoring and managing water resources” would prevent any risk to the river’s catchment.

“I acknowledge the views of Clarence Valley locals but for the reasons I have outlined the government does not support the petition,” he said.