Featured / News / Community / Social / 16th January 2023
Community unite against CSG decision
An appeal has been lodged against the recent decision to grant mining giant Santos access to the Pilliga Forest
The appeal was successfully submitted on Friday, 13 January, just days before the Monday, 16 January deadline and could help save the Pilliga Forest from becoming a coal seam gas (CSG) hotspot.
Giving Santos the green light would result in more than 850 gas wells and supporting infrastructure littering the Pilliga Forest.
Long-time campaigner against the project, Suellyn Tighe said if allowed to go ahead, it could cause untold damage to the pristine landscape.
“CSG is a methane-type gas that is held in coal seams. Mining it produces enormous amounts of
wastes, including toxic salts and water, and dangerous chemicals are used to drill with or without fracking,” she said.
“This has the potential to pollute our water.
“During the drought, Coonabarabran ran out of water and seven bores were sunk into the Great Artesian Basin; this is the water we drink, wash in and bathe our children in; and this is the water that will be affected if Santos is allowed to go ahead.”
Last Saturday evening,a day after the appeal was lodged, Ms Tighe and other community members and Aboriginal Elders took a stand against Santos, holding a gathering at Coonabarabran’s Number One oval.
The get together was held to give not only Indigenous people, but the wider community a voice against the mining giant and its plans for the Pilliga.
Speakers raised concerns about the proposed gas project and their dismay at the recent Native Title decision that granted Santos the right to drill in the Pilliga.
“It was a fantastic turn out,” Ms Tighe said. “There was a real feeling of coming together for the common good and it really highlighted just how strong our Indigenous culture is.
“I think it really opened people’s eyes to the richness of the Indigenous culture and it shows what a small community can do when they come together to have a voice.”
Throughout the night, a number of guest speakers raised concerns about the proposed gas project and their dismay at the recent Native Title decision that granted Santos the right to drill in the Pilliga.
A statement was read from Sue Higginson, NSW Greens MP, who supported the gathering, but was unable to attend, while Senator Merhreen Faruqi, deputy leader of the Australian Greens, and Lynda-June Coe, Greens Upper House Candidate, both travelled to Coonabarabran to speak at the event.
Uncle Casey Dowd and Aunty Maureen Sulter jointly delivered the Welcome to Country, supported by Aunty Margaret Robinson.
Aboriginal dancers performed at the gathering, while a traditional smoking ceremony was conducted – showcasing the area’s rich Indigenous culture.
Attendees were called upon to support a letter dubbed the ‘Coonabarabran Statement’, which was signed by more than 250 people.
The letter contained three core demands:
1. Immediately declare the Gomeroi Native Title determination invalid;
2. Cancel the licenses for the Pilliga/Narrabri Gas Project; and
3. Fix the draconian and biased Native Title legislation. It discriminates.
Ms Tighe said the letter would be sent to the Attorney General, Mark Dreyfus and the Minister for Environment and Water, Tanya Plibersek.
“It really was an outstanding effort by everyone involved to put the event on,” Ms Tighe said. “We did it all in just 10 days. It was a marvellous outcome.”
All eyes will now be on the Federal Court where the appeal will be heard.
“No new evidence can be submitted, so the decision will come down to the evidence that has already been provided,” Ms Tighe said.
“It’s still very worrisome, but we can now all draw a collective sigh of relief and gather our strength.
“There is still more to be done, but we’re really pleased with the Coonabarabran gathering and we will keep the momentum moving forward.”