Dear Mike and Michael,
Alan Jones came to the Upper Hunter on Wednesday 20th April 2016 to listen to us - yes, that's right ... in direct contrast to you two, he came to listen to us, the people who live in this valley, the voters who continue to watch in horror as you continue to destroy this beautiful home of ours.
Son of a coal miner, Alan Jones came with Channel 7 primarily to inform himself about the wanton destruction that has been wrought upon our valley negating our claim to being world famous for Hunter Valley Wines (now Hunter Valley Mines).
He came to gather information from us voters, us farmers, us families, you know us real stakeholders, aka people without nihilistic vested interests hell bent on gutting this land and clearing out.
He also took the opportunity whilst he was here to fly over our once beautiful valley. I didn't envy him that exercise knowing how distressing the view is from a train window let alone a plane or a helicopter. He told us that the footage they had collected told a story of complete devastation.
"Try telling someone to rehabilitate that land after what we have seen here this morning," he said to us.
Of course we already know that it is sheer fantasy to imagine that the land having been decimated to the extent that it has been decimated could ever be rehabilitated. It would take way too many $$$ for anyone or any company to rehabilitate the land to the standard that it was before the commencement of mining projects. As we all well know, there is no rehabilitating the Hunter. You both are deluding yourselves if you think for a minute that we believe your spin.
Many of us spoke to Alan, and oh, yes there was a theme. Notwithstanding that the group assembled all vote quite differently to each other, we all agreed that you, Michael Johnsen, are completely
Arthur Mitchell, from the family-owned and operated Yarraman Park Thoroughbred Stud, reminded us that the horse farms in the Upper Hunter are arguably some of the best in the world, and cannot co-exist with the mines. The noise and dust emanating out of the mines create complete 'no-go zones' which are just not suitable for the breeding and raising of horses.
Alan Jones asked him if anyone had been to Upper Hunter to see what he and the Channel 7 crew had seen on their flight over the mines, to which Arthur replied "no, no-one has." Arthur went on to say that the ugliness has grown, and that the country has been trashed and is only getting worse.
What do you both have to say about that, Mike and Michael? And what are you going to do about it?
Dordie Bragg, beef cattle farmer from Rossgole Pastoral Company, told Alan Jones that she was delighted to see him here in the Upper Hunter. She said that her family has been in the Upper Hunter for generations and that she is horrified at the extent of the pollution, the sludge in the water tanks, and how the dams of the surrounding mines are so toxic that there is never a bird to be seen on them.
When Alan Jones referred to the 'coexistent merchants' I thought of you, Michael, and how during your political campaign for the state election last year you were such an ardent fan of the imaginary concept of mines and farms coexisting.
What a load of nonsense!
Taking a turn on the microphone myself, I agreed with Alan Jones about how 'coexistence can not work, and how in my opinion Big Mine operates like the Mafia, and to that effect seemed to have already infiltrated governments and public institutions to get what they want.
Attunga Stud Principal, Brian Nutt, reiterated how farms and mines cannot coexist detailing that water is like gold, and that the mines are massive users of water.
Kiwa Fisher, one of our Upper Hunter Shire Councillors, listed future open cut mines on the cards for us, and mentioned that Dartbrook and Mount Pleaseant were already approved, which means more noise, more dust, and a massive impact on our local area and communities.
At the moment he told us there is no cumulative measure of impact, yet we all know that Dartbrook is plagued with spontaneous combustion problems, water problems, gas problems, toxic tailings maintenance problems, and elsewhere there are open coal seam fire problems - basically the message we are getting from you lot is 'good luck.'
Over a cuppa, Alan Jones pointed out that many of the licences granted to the surrounding mines were granted years ago and would no longer be applicable.
This is correct, isn't it, Mike and Michael, that essentially the mining companies need to reapply all over again for new licences.
Alan Jones suggested that you could employ the KISS principle, Mike, and then all you would have to do when considering the following three projects would be to say 'NO, GO AWAY.'
(Screen capture: Gateway Application Supporting Document)
1. West Muswellbrook project (above): applying KISS principle = unacceptable impacts to alluvial aquifers
2. Dartbrook: applying KISS principle = new application not granted
3. Mt Pleasant: applying KISS principle = given licence granted in 1997 was a massive administrative and bureacratic mistake, and that no mining construction has yet begun, and that ownership has since changed, existing licence should not be transferred
So, Mike, it is easy for you - all you have to do is say:
'NO ... these three mines may not proceed.'
Tony Lonergan, a resident from Dorset Road, Kayuga, representing one of only two families left from that former close knit community told Alan that his family have been there since the 1890s and now they have to face the prospect of the Muswellbrook West Project.
Tony pointed out that the mining industry is in trouble yet still mines are in 'Care & Maintenance' or 'For Sale' exposing more of our beautiful land. Furthermore he mentioned that there is no requirement to fill the voids left by the mines and that in fact they (the voids) are left for us to sort out. Occasionally there is tokenistic rehabilitation and top soil is put back but the sub soil is not.
The final void can never be rehabilitated - so what do you both have to say about that?
(Catch-up time for Peter Hodges, farmer and former Upper Hunter Shire Councillor with Alan Jones)
When Alan Jones and Channel 7's footage of their aerial sojourn above our valley is broadcast it will tell the Upper Hunter Mine story in a most articulate way, and you will not be able to shirk your responsibilities, Mike and Michael.
(Screen capture: scone.com.au)
And before I sign off, to add to all our concerns is unsettling talk that Nathan Tinkler will be involved in the Dartbrook Open Cut Destruction Project - how can that possibly happen?
He is a business menace ...
... and we are not impressed
... that this view from Blairmore Lane looking towards the currently moth-balled Dartbrook Underground Mine ...
... could end up like this?
Is this what you both really want for us?
All I can say is thank 'insert whichever-mythical-creature-you-like-to-invoke' that Alan Jones paid us a visit during the week because maybe now we might appear on your radar too.
Let's face it, to date neither of you have given us the time of day on this issue nor do either of you seem to have a plan of any merit for our fast-disappearing Upper Hunter.
Yet now more than ever we need informed and principled leaders to 'have our backs' and be prepared to say 'no' to Big Mine.
Save Our Souls, please.