Opponents of a planned open-cut coal mine at Bacchus Marsh, local residents as well as Melbourne-based environmentalists, held a rally at the City Square today as part of a campaign to halt this expansion of Victoria’s dirty coal industry:
[From Media release:]
* Mantle Mining currently has a huge exploration license (386 km2) around Bacchus Marsh that includes black and brown coal and coal seam gas.
* Mantle intends to commence test drilling in September to confirm the quality of brown coal deposits.
* Once confirmed they will apply for a mining license through the Victorian Dept Primary Industries (DPI).
* The application for the exploration license was advertised in local papers, which do not get delivered to the area the exploration is to occur in, so locals were unaware of the application and missed the 21 day deadline to lodge formal objections.
* Locals first knew about it when they were contacted by Mantle telling them that DPI had issued them with an exploration license and they would be drilling on the road side, and may need to come into their land.
* Residents report that when they said “I don’t want you to access my land”, they were informed they had no right to prevent this, and that Mantle could take them to court to gain access.
The rally began conventionally with speakers introduced by Shaun Murray of Stop HRL: Victoria McKenzie-McHarg of Environment Victoria, who gave a summary of the issues, and Deborah Porter of the Moorabool Environment Group, who described the situation of the locals:
Victoria began by saying how disappointing she found it that after ten years of campaigning, with all the information well and truly available, governments were still talking of expanding the coal industry, clinging to the past, a dirty coal past. She said she would not in fact object to coal if it could be proven to be clean, but there was no evidence of this. This was a matter of digging up prime agricultural land, and the farmers affected had only just heard; they had mining executives turning up on their doorsteps and bullying them to allow access. She contrasted this with the position on wind farms, where residents up to two kilometres are to have a power of veto, while farmers here only 200 metres from the drilling have no-one listening. She stressed the importance of the community coming together and making the government listen. And it was not just Bacchus March affected: all over Gippsland there are licences granted and people being told that there is nothing they can do. It was good to see so many turn out at such short notice, but the need was for whole communities to come out.
Deborah illustrated the theme of the rally by pointing out that if she were not in Melbourne protesting she would be back home working on the farm. She focussed on the company’s claim to have given the statutory advice to affected landholders, displaying a tiny column from The Age; other notice had been given in local papers ‘that never get delivered’.
After these speeches participants in the rally were invited to join a march along Collins Street to the Exhibition Street office of Cygnet Capital, the company that has taken over the underwriting of the mining project following the withdrawal of Intersuisse Ltd under pressure from environmentalists. What was known only to a few, however, was that four activists were at that moment entering the office and chaining themselves together …
Management were not particularly happy, and of course eventually police reinforcements arrived and the usual warning about arrest for trespass was given. But not before someone inside decided on a little private surveillance:
After some discussion it was agreed that supporters would leave, while the four who were chained together would wait to be arrested:
… though apparently the padlock was weaker than the chain, and the police were duly able to leave with the spoils: