Residents welcome miner’s decision to walk away

Concerned residents packed the Deans Marsh Memorial Hall.

DEANS MARSH residents have welcomed a mining company’s decision to abandon its plan to probe the region for brown coal.

Mantle Mining managing director Ian Kraemer’s decision drew cheers and applause during a public meeting this week, but the question of Mr Kraemer’s sincerity and motives divided the 288 people at the meeting.

Deans Marsh’s Tony Watts said the outcome of the public meeting was “inevitable”.

“Our job was to convince Ian Kraemer that we had the power to deny him respect – for his genuine “green” credentials – and we could cause he and his company a great deal of damage. It worked,” he said.

Mr Watts was confident Mr Kraemer was sincere saying “there’s too many witnesses, it’s been videoed, it’s been audio-recorded, there are reporters here”.

“Even if he changed his mind, he can’t come back. It’s over,” he said.

Retired geologist Roger Blake said he had never seen a company withdraw an application “so quickly” in response to a community campaign and said the move “sets a precedent” for other companies.

“In terms of doing it, he’s risking the company’s reputation to put up an application and then withdraw an application so quickly, an application that had a great deal of scepticism from the locals because of the knowledge that there aren’t large seams of gas available.”

One of Wednesday night’s most vocal community members, George Zakharia, said he was not convinced of Mr Kraemer’s decision.

“I still don’t trust that he said that he’ll pull out, absolutely not,” he said.

Mr Zakharia’s wife Jacqueline started a “Say NO to Coal Mining in the Otway Ranges” group on Facebook.

“I started that 24 hours after this started and we got nearly 700 people,” she said.

Mrs Zakharia said she also wasn’t convinced of Mr Kraemer’s announcement he would “walk away” from the company’s application.

“I’m thrilled, but I still don’t actually trust what’s happened. Everyone’s saying that – we don’t actually feel that we’ve seen the end of it,” she said.

People said they would still write letters to the Department of Primary Industries earth resource tenements manager David Boothroyd opposing the proposal.

The “Say NO to Coal Mining in the Otway Ranges” is suggesting Colac and district residents focus their attention on a coal bed methane exploration licence over a 484-square-kilometre area of crown and public land around Colac.

Mining chief: ‘If you’re against it, we’ll walk away’

“IF a raise of hands shows me that you’re against it, I will walk away.”

Mantle Mining chief Ian Kraemer addresses the Deans Marsh meeting.

Those were the words of Mantle Mining managing director Ian Kraemer when he addressed a packed room of concerned community members at the Dean Marsh Memorial Hall.

A unanimous raise of the 288 attendees’ arms forced “Mr Mantle Mining” to withdraw the company’s application to explore a 499-square-kilometre area of the Otways for brown coal, in a move that residents proclaimed as people power prevailing.

“I’m going to withdraw the application. I put it in, and I’m going to withdraw it,” Mr Kraemer said one-hour into the public meeting on Wednesday night.

Mr Kraemer, who travelled from Brisbane for the meeting, faced fierce opposition from a crowd of residents, shire councillors and state and federal politicians including Greens Senator Richard Di Natale and state Greens leader Greg Barber, as he tried to explain how new technologies could use coal to “save this planet”.

The withdrawal of the application, which the company advertised in the Colac Herald a week ago, was not the outcome Deans Marsh people expected, after they attended the meeting to seek more information on the application and to form an action group to fight the proposal.

The meeting’s organiser Shauna Gunn said “the wind has been completely taken out of our sails” when she addressed the crowd following Mr Kraemer’s announcement.

“We were ready for a stoush and I’m afraid it hasn’t happened, although you never know with mining companies,” Ms Gunn said.

“However we will record this and we will take Mr Kraemer at his word.”

Senator Di Natale, who urged the residents to write to their members of parliament, said the quick decision was a “testament to the community”.

“It just shows you what happens when people come together and speak as one,” he said.

“I’ve been involved in a lot of environmental campaigns and you get used to losing, but this is a win and we’ll savour it.”

Speaking as the residents around him celebrated with cups of tea and biscuits, Mr Kraemer said he made the decision knowing that “fundamentally valid” community opposition was “never going to go away”.

“There’s three considerations here – the economics from my shareholders, the social amenity of lifestyle for the community and the environment impact – all of those three things operate together,” Mr Kraemer said.

“If I can come to a meeting and see that there is substantial community opposition then it’s obvious what to do and I made that decision halfway through the meeting,” he said.

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