Australians Lock the Gate on mining

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Australians Lock the Gate on mining

By Dominic O'Dwyer


Not in my backyard, not on my planet: thousands have taken action to Lock the Gate lockthegate, under a CC License

As you drive along the country roads of Eastern Australia, you to see many yellow signs on fences and gates. The message is clear: mining companies are not welcome here; residents have decided to ‘Lock the Gate to coal & gas companies.’

The Lock the Gate campaign began almost three years ago in the Darling Downs, southern Queensland. It started with a meeting between landholder groups and environmentalists. The rural population, particularly farmers, are usually against green and left wing activists. They are often worried that looking after the environment and land rights could stop their ‘freedoms’. But these long disagreements were forgotten and an unusual partnership was made. The government recently decided to allow four big new Coal Seam Gas (CSG) projects here. People are worried about the growth of the gas industry, and the new way of getting gas known as fracking. These worries have quickly become probably the largest popular challenge that the Australian mining industry has seen.

The power of the Lock the Gate movement involves thousands of people. This is surprising in a country full of billionaires, who have made their money in mining. In Australia, mineral resources belong to the state, but the profits are private. In 2012, the Country Women’s Association, the largest conservative women’s organization in the country, went onto the streets in Sydney. They joined an anti-CSG rally of around 10,000 people.

In the past the organisation has been mostly interested in protecting farmland and water resources and not in challenging big mining companies. But now the fight involves new, rich mining companies and small groups of rich farmers. This includes millionaires from Sydney, who own vineyards and race-horses in New South Wales’ Hunter Valley, which has rich coal mines. As this article has been simplified, the words, text structure and quotes may have been changed. For the original, please see: In the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales, the campaign has moved away from protecting private property. A large number of volunteers has become involved through town meetings, going door-to-door, sharing information on mining processes and surveying roads and towns. The results of the surveys have been 100% positive. Most of the residents chose to have their roads and towns free from mining. After that many peoplewere trained in peaceful civil action, including how to block entrances to drilling sites and ‘lock-ons’ - where people chain themselves to equipment or places.

Action to block entrances in Glenugie and Doubtful Creek both lasted around 50 days. This cost Metagsco, the company involved, tens of millions of dollars. There are groups now like the Knitting Nannas Against Gas, a group of retired people prepared to be arrested (and knit) for a good reason. These groups have made it impossible for the media, governments, and companies to say the action is the usual group of hippies. . In March 2013, three years after their announcement to explore and exploit the CSG in the Northern Rivers region, Metagasco announced a halt to its plans and their share price plummeted to an all-time low. The executive board cited ‘regulatory uncertainty’ as the reason for its decision, but it was clear that the effectiveness of the campaign had made it all but impossible for the company to proceed. What happens with Australia’s mining industry is important for the rest of the world. Australia is already the world’s biggest coal exporter and the country is ready to grow. This would produce more greenhouse gas every year than all of the UK.

Campaigners in the Northern Rivers have shown how to challenge big companies. The importance of action instead of giving money has put ordinary people, who do the hard work, at the heart of the campaign and not the rich landowners. The little yellow signs we see on country roads are just the beginning. Lock the gate, then the town, and then the region – this could be very successful in the important fight to stop the power of mining companies and keep fossil fuels in the ground.

As this article has been simplified, the words, text structure and quotes may have been changed. For the original, please see: