Staterra's snails on ice

“It’s beautiful up there man. Real beautiful. I know what I think - even though I’m not a local I know who owns that place. It’s ours man. All of ours – not an Australian mining company’s." Not dreadlocked nor wearing too much jewellery. I was surprised, principally because this man was not the standard issue green protestor but a hard working miner. Miners don’t usually get excited about the places they’re about to dig up. There was a not so gentle hum of internal conflict as he spoke but as he said; what was he to do? It was a job. The mistake he’d made with the Denniston Plateau of which he was talking was to see it in its untouched state – to see it as it really was. In corporation world this is never a good idea. Reality is not hard currency in the world of big corporates – better to create an internal dialogue amongst like-minded people that will serve to confirm your own vision of how the world should be. It should be full of profit and preferably (but not yet thanks to the unions), low paying jobs. Except they are only ever short term in an unsustainable industry as the miners at Spring Creek know, dependent as they are on such vagaries as international coal prices and the economy of China. In corporate land, mining is also green – if you go to the Straterra website you will read about ‘green’ and ‘boutique’ mining which must be something like ‘helpful homocide’ or ‘precision bombing’. Since the Pike River disaster there is no more talk of the ‘keyhole surgery’ approach so often cited by Wayne Brown. It is what it is. A big open hole in the ground – in the Denniston’s case; 150- 200 hectares of it. In May a ‘bio-blitz’ caught several as yet unidentified species on the Plateau but this does not blend easily with Staterra’s story that their efforts are just a gentle continuation of a long history of mining in a less than virgin environment. This disingenuous argument is akin to saying that corporate whaling on modern vessels is the same as hunting a whale in a walrus skin canoe. Straterra again; “On Solid Energy's landsnail conservation work, the real picture is less gloomy than painted by Forest and Bird. Of 6140 Powelliphanta augustus snails collected, some 4000 have been released back into the wild. Varied results have been obtained, with some sites recording promise.” A link took me back to Forest and Bird site; “To mine the site Solid Energy picked up every last snail in the hope of translocating them. All three attempts are failing, and now the only ‘safe’ population lives in a fridge.” Or they did. Until someone turned down the thermostat and they all froze to death. But it’s not the mining company’s fault. Apparently it’s DOC’s. Staterra; “Forest  and Bird may disagree with the adequacy of the proposed mitigation package, however, their concerns should be taken up with DOC, and not the mining company, who has gone to great effort to do the right thing based on the Department's advice.”    DOC are now captive. I believe experts in that Department are no longer free to offer their opinions on what might best protect our environment. Instead they’ve become the mining industry’s whipping boy. And so it’s left to Forest and Bird to take an Australian mining company to court to protect land that supposedly was already protected under our conservation estate. Meanwhile submissions on changes to our Reserves Act and Wildlife Act which will give mining easier access to our National Parks close this Friday. DOC has no comment.

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