Casino Post Office and Cyanide Watch banner array
Casino is a laid back country town by the Richmond River, built around a rail junction and a cross roads. Its centre is a couple of blocks of two story shop fronts with broad streets and an impressive colonial style post office.
It was there that we chose to set up our Cyanide Speak Out.
Notice of our intention had been publicized in the Northern Rivers Echo, ABC Radio 2NR and Radio 2LM-ZZZ.
West of Casino is the gold mining district of Drake and Tenterfield where from 1994 through to 2002 a cyanide leach mine at the head waters of the Timbarra river had been fiercely resisted and eventually closed.
The bad news of gold mining was not news to Casino people because many knew of its toxic consequences from the tailings dams left behind in those hills.
But it was news to all that huge amounts of cyanide - an estimated 30,000 tonnes a year - was being shipped down the rail through Casino from Brisbane to Sydney and on to the far flung gold mines in western NSW and western Australia.
The aim of our Cyanide Watch action was simply to bear witness to this fact by gathering and speaking out, visibly and loudly, in public place.
The Casino Cyanide Watch was supported by the Nimbin Environment Centre and their promotion of it in Nimbin, 30 km way, particularly in the pages of the monthly Nimbin Good Times and on Radio NIM FM, drew about 20 people.
A minibus load of young activists from Melbourne and Sydney on their way to the Students of Sustainability Conference in Sydney, who had picked up the notice of the action on the Save Lake Cowal email list, also dropped in.
Also present was my companion of many actions, John Peace of Peacebus.net which he parked across the road displaying its "Cyanide Spills. Cyanide Kills!" mural to the Post Office and made look impressive all the more by directing its rooftop speaker horns at the PO (there was no amplifier on board) and lifting its solar panels (he had more than enough battery power).
On board was Max Stone, Peacebus webmaster, and for this action he had set up a webcam on Peacebus.net which streamed live to the world wide web both sound and images of the action.
Peacebus Webmaster Max Stone points to the webcam and tells the world about it.
Cyanide Watch flags and banners were arrayed in front of the Post Office and Peacebus.com was parked adjacent with the microphone set up on the road and its speakers pointed up the street.
Banner messages at the Casino PO
Ever cautious about causing irritation with our amplification, local businesses nearby had been informed and assured we would turn down the volume if it was troubling.
We received just one complaint from a near by business and that had been qualified by an earnest assurance "I don't want to stop you saying what you have to say". We adjusted the volume at once.
Graeme Dunstan and John Allan speaks and Graeme gets interviewed by a Northern Star angel
Local police had been informed but apart for a drive past by a patrol car, there was no police presence at our Casino Speak Out
Our cyanide concerns resonated with local ongoing concerns about the run down of rail services and infrastructure that has happened under the city based and urban focused Carr-Macquarie Bank-Iemma State government.
The trunk rail line loops down from the Border Ranges into NSW and follows the upper reaches of the Richmond River to Casino. Three years ago, and to the tune of much regional outrage, the branch line from Casino to Lismore, Byron Bay and Murwillumbah was closed for lack of maintenance and
Locals are aware that the wooden trestle bridges of the trunk line are aging too.
If my estimated of 30,000 tonnes cyanide a year is correct, that means an average of forty 20 tonne containers a week on the line and that every south bound freight is carrying a container or three of cyanide.
It all adds up to a derailment and cyanide spill being only a matter of time. This was our core message.
The Casino Cyanide Watch was notable for the friendliness of the locals both shoppers and business people.
The Casino crowd. That's Johnny Chai serving and Ruth Rosenhek from the rainforest Information Centre kneeling in front.
For me this welcome began at day break. Peacebus.com camped over night in a reserve at the south of the town and Council workers came there early to mow, remove garbage and do some earth works. By 7.30 am there were about a dozen of them all dressed up in fluoro jackets and vests having a morning chat near Happy Wheels.
One them who was dressed in full yellow fluoro jacket and pants and describing himself as a "Glow Plug", hailed me with warm familiarity, "Hey Graeme! Welcome to Casino. How you going?"
It was revealed that not only had he recognized Peacebus.com and knew of me from the media reports about the Independence from America Day celebration in Byron Bay the previous Sunday and Cyanide Watch of that day, he knew me personally from twelve years earlier when he had helped me on the first Lismore Lantern parade.
Later when Radio 2ZZZ was interviewing me by phone live to air, the Council whipper snipper joined with Jennifer's barking to provide authentic background ambient sound.
And so it was that this openness and friendliness continued through the day as we congregated outside the Casino Post Office to bear witness to the secret deals done by the NSW Government with the cyanide criminals of the gold mining industry.
Shoppers and shop keepers alike came by and expressed interest, concern and support. A manager of a real estate agency crossed the road to give us advice about how to take the matter further with the Richmond Shire Council.
But warmest of all was the sense of fraternity and solidarity amongst the good folk gathered that day by the Nimbin Environment Centre.
Many a successful Earth defense campaign has come out of Nimbin and here we were again, the valiant few, on the streets and on the march again.
For the Earth!
28 July 2006