Tim Duddy from the Caroona Coal Action Group most graciously hosted us for Sunday breakfast; opening his home to a group of strangers, he served up a delicious spread. As we enjoyed scrambled eggs and toast, with much needed strong coffee, the Liverpool Plains stretched on, a most beautiful expanse in all directions. Leaving Caroona we felt regenerated and chatted excitedly on the bus.
A few hours later we arrived at yet another mine site at Ulan. Like all the other communities, the people we met here had prepared a wonderful lunch for us. Hopping off the bus we were greeted with smiles and cold fruit. We came to look at the Drip. A sandstone overhang with moss and green growth, a water flow dripping over the edge into a gorge; the drip is a natural phenomenon. It looks like a miniature hanging swamp. Julia, our guide, explained it doesn’t drip as much as it used to, even relative to past droughts. The proposed mine here is only 400 meters away form the edge of the gorge, threatening the stabilisation of the rock. Julia explained the mining in the region has affected the river ecosystem here. This area of the national park area had been a meeting place for different local indigenous groups. With naturally defined walking trails along the cliffs edges you can see why.
On the walk to the drip Cass and I peeled off about halfway and stayed for a swim. Surrounded by high cliffs on either side with long reeds on the edge of the water we swam by a place here where in a cave there is a Brett Whitely painting on the rock face. Our guide pointed out in one of the speech bubbles it reads “times too”, perhaps a playful reference to “its time” – the Whitlam slogan from the 70s. This art, from one of our countries most famous artists, will be lost if the mining here goes ahead.
Else and I talked with a local who asked us how we felt about the future, and whether we optimistic or feeling negative. He talked so pessimistically about the impacts from climate change and being able to make any difference. He talked about people’s cynicism and encountering hostility and expressed concern that children aren’t involved with the issues instead retreating into gaming and online social networking. This observation is somewhat different from the hope new generations are more aware and society is fostering a caring attitude towards the future; two interesting but opposing perspectives.
At the end of the tour at the drip Julia told us about a campaign in Mudgee against building a new train line through the town. There are serious concerns about the dirt and dust coming off these trains, something that most of the communities we’ve visited have talked about.
Before we left an impression was made to consider taking home reasons to fight the mines – the direct impacts of coal mines aren’t just for the communities we are visiting but also in Newcastle itself – it was pointed out to us that in Mayfield some residents are entitled to a cleaning service (or perhaps a refund for this) to remove the dust from the roofs of houses. This dust that builds up is from the coal trains passing through to the harbour.
From the drip we travelled to Cowra and spent the night with a family who kindly allowed such a group as ours to demands decent into their backyard. A stop at a local river on the way here had refreshed everybody’s spirits. We had a most enjoyable and relaxing night – many thanks.