The Gorge on the Clarence Valley above Grafton is another place closely identified with the region.
The Gorge on the Clarence Valley above Grafton is another place closely identified with the region.

Council takes stand on mining in the Clarence

CLARENCE Valley Council has resolved to oppose all mining in the Clarence River catchment and seek government support to cancel current and future licenses in the valley.

Council was considering a report by general manager Ashley Lindsay which recommended that council invite representatives from both the NSW Government and four mining companies with exploration licenses in the area to address the council.

However, Cr Greg Clancy took the opportunity to put forward a notice of motion for council to take a position on mining in the Clarence Valley.

The motion asked council to resolve to oppose mining in the Clarence River catchment and seek support of the state and federal governments to impose a moratorium on further mining exploration licenses and cancel existing licenses.

>>> RELATED: Company makes mining push across region

“(The Clarence river system) is the lifeblood of our community and its health is essential to the environment, social, cultural and economic wellbeing of our constituents,” he read from his motion.

“The potential for pollution of the Clarence and Nymboida is high … and it has created great concern within the Clarence Valley … with in excess of 10,000 signatures on a petition initiated by the Clarence Catchment Alliance.”

Cr Clancy said that if any of the mining explorations taking place ever became mining operations, it could lead to massive damage to the catchment and the river system.

“Castillo Copper at Cangai already have carried out exploration activities which damaged the environment to the point when the local Clarence Environment Centre realised, the regulators closed them down until they restored the damage,” he said.

An image from a Castillo Copper promotional video at the site of the old Cangai mine.
An image from a Castillo Copper promotional video at the site of the old Cangai mine.

“This is only exploration, and the damage is already being done. Imagine what damage would be done with full scale mining.”

Mr Clancy acknowledged that minerals needed for modern technologies had to come from somewhere, but federal and state governments should look where there is minimal impact on river systems, the environment and community.

“The Clarence is not one of those. The Clarence is totally inappropriate.”

>>> RELATED: The history of mining in the Clarence Valley

Cr Clancy hoped that the motion would be passed unanimously, but Cr Baker provided a voice of dissent to the ban.

Cr Baker had earlier foreshadowed part of the original recommendation motion to have state government representatives give an overview to council, and suggested he didn’t know if the whole Clarence community was behind a mining ban.

“I don’t believe the community generally want us to adopt a position put forward by at least a dozen people,” he said.

“They may well claim they are the community generally – I don’t know and I suggest neither does this council and that’s why I’ve suggested this council take it step by step, and allow the appropriate state government to inform us and as we do. We might in fact decide that some mining has great potential for not only the Clarence, (but) the state and the country.

Cr Baker asserted that he thought the motion was an important decision for some.

“There’s an election coming, and there’s probably a few votes in it, but I don’t need those and nor does the total community need that sort of thing,” he said.

“We should find out where council and councillors fit in the scheme of things, and work within of influence, not make out we are some all-powerful organisation that should give people false hope that we can extinguish mining.”

Mining in the Clarence Valley has been rebuffed at a recent Clarence Valley Council meeting.
Mining in the Clarence Valley has been rebuffed at a recent Clarence Valley Council meeting.

However, all remaining five councillors spoke for the motion, many praising Cr Clancy as well as the community who had provided the groundswell of support for the stance.

Cr Lysaught said he had told Cr Clancy years ago that he indicated if anyone was going to affect the Clarence River he would be the first to stand beside and take whatever action was needed to preserve the Clarence River, which he described as the best waterway in the world.

“The unfortunate part of all of this … is that others are going to make the ultimate decision, and I guess it’s great that we take a position on it, but to me … it’s like a gummy shark … it won’t mean much,” he said.

“However … I said I’d do anything I could to look after it, and I stand by my word.”

Cr Ellem said that he’d contacted by a wide range of community groups, including the Maclean CWA, the Lions Club Environmental and farmers who lived in the catchment with concerns about the impact mining could have on the catchment.

“I think it’s important that we do reflect community opposition to this … and use our good advises to try to influence our state and federal member that just like damming and diverting the Clarence, and like coal seam gas exploration that this kind of mining isn’t appropriate,” he said.

“There should be a moratorium on it here, and Australia can look elsewhere for these kind of minerals.”

Cr Toms and Novak both congratulated the community and environmental groups for rallying to the cause, stating they thought the motion would show leadership from council.

“Congratulations to our community stepping up and for advocating for 10,000 people,” Cr Novak said. “What I love about this is it’s grassroots activism … and it’s great privilege to raise and amplify it.”

Cr Clancy denied the motion was a vote-getting exercise, stating that he’d been working for the environment since high school.

“I’m not an 11 o’clock greenie, and it’s not only for the environment but for the people who need it – for our kids, grand kids and even us old people,” he said.

“It goes right across cultures, right across parties – it’s a community issue.

“We’re not gummy sharks, and it’s wonderful to see the support in the chamber. I know it will show that we are taking a leadership role that we need to be taking.”

The motion passed 6-1 with Cr Baker against the motion, and Cr Williamson and Kingsley absent.

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