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Issue #1720      February 24, 2016

CSG battle hots up

Traditional owners have been front and centre in leading more than 130 people in a protest at the construction site for Santos’ coal seam gas (CSG) wastewater treatment facility near Narrabri, northern NSW.

The mining company’s plan for an 850-well CSG production field in the Pilliga forest has been controversial, with protests in the area growing over the past few weeks. But other local Indigenous people say they are prepared to negotiate with Santos, with the local native title group taking a pragmatic approach.

Pilliga Country Connect spokesman Paul Stearim, a Gamilaraay man, said the protestors want to protect the environment, the animals and the traditional lands of his people.

“The most important thing to us is to stop Santos,” he said. “We want them to know that they are not welcome in our sacred Gamilaraay lands. We performed a traditional ceremony to properly get rid of bad and evil from the place, which is Santos in this case.”

Gomeroi woman Jeddy Fernando, from Moree, said Santos had not been in contact with the local people.

“Very undercover”

“They’ve been consulting with the native title representatives but that’s it – they didn’t talk to the community and it was all very undercover,” she said.

“I want to stand proud and protect the land that I want my children and their children to be able to see. CSG kills everything around it and our culture is built on that land. Everything around the site is dying and it’s just heartbreaking to see.”

Gomeroi People Native Title Claim Group spokesman Alf Priestley, from Moree, said Santos has been engaging with the community but hasn’t started the process of negotiation yet.

“We don’t like mines but what right have we got to stop them. The government gives them approval, so they’ll build the mine anyway,” he said.

“But we will have the opportunity to negotiate to get our people jobs and careers from the mines, to get services to the towns and to protect and preserve sacred lands and artefacts.

“If we could change the Native Title Act we would, but all we’ve got is our legal right to negotiate and we should at least have a go at it. It’s better to hold on to 60% of something than to hold on to 100% of nothing.”

Koori Mail

Next article – Seizing public space

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