Nightmare country

When you finally settle on your piece of rural paradise, build your home with your own hands, landscape your gardens and get to know the wildlife neighbours– you expect to enjoy the peace and quiet for the rest of your lives, right?

Wrong, if there’s coal in the area.

North of Mudgee, NSW, I recently visited such a home. It now has a new open-cut coal mine as a neighbour that can’t be ignored. That huge wall of overburden (the dirt and rock they dig up to get at the coal) is just 400 metres from their house, rising beside the small creek in the treeline. You can just see the top of one of the giant trucks operating there.

The dust is a constant problem, and so is the noise. When I was there it was like standing in Marrickville, Sydney, right under the flight path —only the traffic was non-stop.

A rural dream turned into a nightmare — and they had no say in the matter. Selling to the mine is their only option, which is a Clayton’s option as they didn’t ever want to move. They still don’t — but how long they can stand this is in doubt.

I travel south to see another mine in the region, down a pot-holed dirt road with mine vehicles hurtling along it at speeds that make me pull over to get out of the way.

Here the coal heap happens to be on fire and the giant excavator is biting into it and dumping burning heaps into the dump truck. If you have ever seen one of those mammoth yellow trucks, which looks like a toy here, you can get some idea of the size of that excavator.

Along this road there are no longer any signs of human habitation or usage, no houses or farms, just huge Transgrid towers straddling the landscape on one side and huge machines disembowelling the earth on the other.

Hell on earth.

I leave the mines behind and head down a dirt road in what seems a green and still rural valley to find a spot to have my picnic lunch. It is quiet enough, but then over the green hills I see dust rising; I have not gone far enough to escape the effect of the open-cut, although the mine would probably have classed this valley as beyond its ‘area of affectation’.

The more coal mining areas I visit, the more horrified I am. Rural people do not live in the lucky country any more. Even if mine-free now, over the next hill drilling could be going on for their worst nightmare to come tomorrow.

14 thoughts on “Nightmare country”

  1. Hi Elizabeth, coal lies under such a huge area, much of which was previously unlikely to be mined, that the surface landuse has been going on for much longer. These are not new land developments. If nobody lived anywhere there was a resource, half the country would be empty.
    We do not need to mine every gram of coal now just because the price is good.

  2. Hi Sharyn,

    Why do state governments and local councils allow urban and rural residential development in those areas likely to be mined for coal? The answer is clear – they reap huge financial benefits from both so the practice is unlikely to stop. The only solution is for potential buyers to thoroughly check out the possibility of future or present mining before purchasing a certain property. Whether we like it or not, coal mining is here for a long time to come and mining always takes precedence over individual rights.

  3. Hi Dorothy,
    Scary and depressing. People have to take check out what mining exploration leases have been issued in an area, from the NSW Dept Planning web site. These days I’d look at where any coal resources have ever been identified ( Dept Primary Industries) and steer clear. Even so, you could find some other type of development being given permission to walk all over your rights.
    While they can’t (yet!) mine in a national park they seem to be able to mine next to one and of course have absolutely ‘no significant environmental impact’. We all know it’s blatant rubbish but we aren’t running the state: they are.

  4. Hi Sharyn
    This is very scary. So how do people find out about where the coal mines are active and where the mining companies are exploring to mine? How would you find out about such plans before you bought property if the mining companies aren’t obliged to tell you (as you intimated in your March 16th response to Joe) ? Can they actually mine IN a world heritage national park such as Capertee?

  5. Wendy, I feel for you all there. May I ask if you are in touch with other groups nearby, like Running Stream? People need to share info and tactics where they can – and support. Combined voices make a lot of noise.
    I hear tragic coal-affected stories from all over . Many of us are working to make them stop happening.

  6. Sharyn, A new coal mine, Mt Airly (Centennial Coal) is going fully operational this month at Capertee on the ridge of the, till now pristine Capertee Valley. The second largest enclosed valley in the world, (only the Grand Canyon is larger) A valley with 10% of Australia’s biodiversity, a world heritage area, and home to the Wollemi Pine and one of the world’s best birding areas, one of only 2 breeding sites of the Regent honeyeater. We are asking each other what do we do now? How can we stop it? How can we live with it? How can we retain the way of life, the lifestyle we thought we were getting when we moved here?

  7. Actually Joe, that mine wasn’t on the cards when they bought that land. Neighbours don’t have to be notified when the are exploring.

  8. Well it’s not they bought the place and the 2 days later said “gee I wonder where that big mound of dirt came from. They would of be advised of those plans.

  9. What a great image, John – thank you! I intend to keep on singing– just as you keep such good watch and sound the alarms on those ever-encroaching coalmines in your area.

  10. Hi Denis, thanks for your comments and for spreading the post’s audience. I hope words will do the job in my book– literally!

  11. When I read your words on this one Sharyn I hear a bird singing in a tree. Singing hope, happiness and freedom. And sounding imminent warning of the filthy, sneaking coal mine approaching from around the corner.

  12. Hi Sharyn
    Really good post.
    I will publish a link to your story via the Australian Water Network.
    Pictures are great and only seeing it will enable people to “get the picture” – literally.

  13. A telling image Trevor– I agree, but the small section of mankind (us) who disagree that this is the only option still have to keep pointing out its stupidity.
    And I am ‘so over driving’!

  14. Dear Sharyn, it’s appallingly upsetting but only to be expected. In my 63 years on the planet I have had to conclude that mankind’s most obvious talent is for cutting off the branch that we are sitting on. I can hear it creaking louder and louder. Drive carefully now. Trev.

Comments are closed.