Wrong place for a coal mine – such lush, cultural country

Photo by MidCoast Water of farm land near Gloucester NSW. Used with CC license 2.0.

The NSW Land and Environment Court has rejected an appeal by Gloucester Resources in relation to the proposed Rocky Hill coalmine.

Chief Judge Brian Preston ruled the open cut coal mine would have significant negative impacts on the area, including climate change impacts and social impacts.

Michael Manikas gave evidence on behalf of the Cook family, Traditional Owners of the land in the Gloucester area. He said the NSW court’s rejection was a “big win” for Indigenous people in the area.

“Reading through the judgement decision, it was heavily focused on climate change being a major issue in the rejection of the mine, but there is also recognition in there for the Indigenous heritage to be protected in that area,” he said.

Because of the displacement of his relatives, he said knowledge of the area was incomplete and the mine would have caused further loss of connection to family history.

“A lot of Aboriginal history is not well-documented so we are still in such a learning process. We are getting to know the area more and more and the significance is growing.”

“We’ve been getting great recognition in the area … There’s a plaque in town honouring our great great grandfather Jack Cook and his descendants. The town of Gloucester has really embraced our family history and a lot of the people involved in the mine are really caring about Aboriginal culture and maintaining the culture,” he said.

Mr Manikas said the climate change and visual impact of the mine would have been devastating to the area.

“To put a coal mine in such a lush, beautiful part of the precinct, I don’t think it’s the right outcome especially in today’s world with greenhouse gas emissions the way they are,” he said.

“It would have doubled the impact of such an approval. It’s been very emotional the last couple of days receiving the great news the other day. All our families were over the moon. They can’t believe it.”

Janine Phillips, who submitted a statement to the court for Kim Eveleigh and Ken Eveleigh, Elders of the Worimil/Gooreengai people, said the valley was “a significant sacred place as this is our Ancestor’s daughters’ birthing and naming area.”

“As they travel over this part of the land they shared knowledge of our Ancestors’ medicines, hunting and gathering of food, the weaving of fishing baskets whilst singing to the spirits of the Ancestors,” she said.

“The Bucketts Range is the man, the Waukivory Range is the woman, the Gloucester valley / Buckan is the family, it is a complete cycle of life that should not be disturbed or separated.”

The area is associated with many traditional stories, tribal grounds, initiation routes, scar trees, burial and birthing grounds.

Justice Preston concluded the mine would be “in the wrong place at the wrong time”.

“Wrong place because an open cut coal mine in this scenic and cultural landscape, proximate to many people’s homes and farms, will cause significant planning, amenity, visual and social impacts,” he said.

“Wrong time because the GHG emissions of the coal mine and its coal product will increase global total concentrations of GHGs at a time when what is now urgently needed, in order to meet generally agreed climate targets, is a rapid and deep decrease in GHG emissions.”

By Andrea Cantle

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