SIR: I would like to offer some perspectives and corrections about last Tuesday’s public forum on mining and LEP issues, at which I was publicly harassed.
In fact, contrary to the statements in the Lithgow Mercury on July 25, I did not speak about opposing mining - as a blanket statement.
I never have.
I well understand the benefits that mining brings to our lives.
What I did offer was to say that Centennial Coal has confirmed to the government that it has the production capacity to provide coal for the Mt Piper power station should the Coalpac Consolidation Project not get approved, contrary to other statements made on the night.
That is, the local power station is in no risk of closing depending on the Coalpac outcome.
Indeed, it is rather fanciful to think otherwise.
I also said that we need to consider the merits of each mining project – as these vary widely.
I started to raise my concerns that the Coalpac Consolidation Project lies very close right around the perimeter of the township of Cullen Bullen and this comes with a host of risks.
I was not able to speak any further as I was physically intimidated and had the microphone forcibly taken from me.
What can one make of this?
Firstly, this was a public meeting; that is, all the public were offered to attend this meeting, and voice their concerns if they wished.
I listened patiently to many a speaker before I had my turn.
It is a basic need for a civil society to be able to negotiate its differences without resorting to aggression or violence.
It should be noted that while Jim Robson adeptly steered this incident from degenerating into something far nastier, none of the conveners or speakers sought fit to publicly condemn such behaviour.
I had a number come up afterwards and apologise but in remaining silent when a clear need to stand up on such matters was required, the conveners to some degree became complicit in this mob aggression.
It should also be noted that our mayor in her vigorous support of Coalpac (despite having now declared a family interest in it) has remained silent about the very real threats to the residents of Cullen Bullen by this project and the other deleterious effects it will have in this region.
Ms Statham, are these constituents no less deserving of your concern?
The reality is that most of the recent mining lay offs have been the result of economic considerations by the mining companies.
They have not been because of the actions of any ‘greenies’ or government regulatory restrictions.
It has just been about the mining not being profitable - for a whole host of reasons.
We are in the middle of a very difficult transition time.
There are many reasons why the economics of coal mining are becoming more difficult.
I appreciate the difficult circumstances that some miners and their families are experiencing.
We should be looking at ways to assist them.
I can also understand why miners who have been laid off might seek an ‘enemy’ to vent their frustrations and fears on.
Others might seek to exploit such fears - though this comes at a broader public cost.
This event - and how it was pumped up and managed by the Lithgow Forum and the NSW Minerals Council delegate - in the end was not a good look: for our community, and as a broader statement about how we help people under stress.
There is still plenty of mining going on in this town - and there will be for some time to come, whatever our views on this.
I hope that we can learn as a community from the unfortunate events of last Tuesday and offer each other more respect and patience in negotiating our differences and concerns about how we are to live.
Because if we can’t, it’s a nasty slide down.
Dr Richard Stiles