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Issue #1672      February 11, 2015

Coal mine site plan concerns

Two significant grinding groove sites* will be “cut up like a jigsaw puzzle” if Chinese mining company Shenhua’s Watermark coal project , near Breeza State Forest, in Western NSW is approved, it has been claimed.

A group of 21 Gomeroi Elders and community members met with the NSW Planning and Assessment Commission (PAC) on January 12 to visit the sites.

“There are over 100 grinding grooves up there,” Steve Talbot, a member of the Gomeroi community, said. “They’re important to us. We want something that we can take our kids to see so they can learn about their culture ‘in situ’.”

Although Shenhua have insisted its operations will not effect the environment and the company intends to put the grinding grooves back after they are finished with the site in 17 years, Mr Talbott said this is not enough.

“Once Shenhua move it, it’ll pretty much be destroyed anyway,” he said. “Shenhua say they won’t impact the land, but how can they know when they haven’t assessed it properly?”

Elders fear Shenhua are using “obstructive tactics” to stop the community’s concerns from being brought to the PAC. “This is a project and they’ve only assessed about 1.3 percent of the area, which it hasn’t properly been assessed,” Mr Talbott said.

“Their most recent Environmental Impact Report wasn’t endorsed by us. In fact, we haven’t even seen it to sign off on it. We haven’t had a meeting with Shenhua since 2012. I feel like they’re just trying to stall the time they have to deal with the community.”

The Elders claim Shenhua is interfering in the lore and customs of the Gomeroi traditional owners by restricting the numbers and representation of the Gomeroi people allowed to discuss concerns and cultural values with the PAC.

Disappointed

Mr Talbott said he is also disappointed in the way the PAC has handled the process of approving the mine.

“When we gave them the tour of the grinding groove site the PAC didn’t meet with the community like they were supposed to, and they didn’t tell us beforehand that they couldn’t make it,” he said.

The Elders have promised to challenge Shenhua and its proposed mine as they believe its approval would mean the destruction of their traditional homelands.

“The community hasn’t been given the chance to give the PAC all the information they need,” he said. “I don’t think the PAC are making an informed decision.”

* Aboriginal grinding groove sites are rock depressions of various sizes that were formed by the repeated movement of hard stone artefacts against a softer stone surface. This was done to either sharpen stone hatchet heads, stone wedges, hand held “axes” and wooden artefacts with fire hardened points (such as digging sticks) or to grind secondary material (such as grass seeds). Grinding grooves were almost always located close to a source of water which was used to assist the grinding process [Ed].

Koori Mail

Next article – BHP’s slap in the face for Queensland workers

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