Rain, runoff and rare metals – the toxic threat to the Dorrigo Plateau

Is this the place for an antimony mine? I guess that depends what an antimony mine is… Karl Vernes

Hands up those who’ve heard of antimony. Now, keep them up if you can name its chemical symbol, list the world’s leading producers, or even name a single commercial product that contains the element.

Most of us struggle to answer any of these questions. But the residents around Dorrigo, a quiet hamlet on the edge of the Great Escarpment in north-eastern New South Wales, are mounting a campaign against a mining company that plans to mine for this precious metal adjacent to Dorrigo’s World Heritage-listed rainforest.

A World Heritage listed rainforest

Approach Dorrigo from the west and you’re greeted by rolling hills of vivid green scattered with patches of remnant rainforest. Black and white dairy cows dot the hills.

As you get nearer the escarpment, the pastures give way to larger areas of rainforest. There are four distinct varieties – warm temperate, cool temperate, sub-tropical and dry rainforest.

These forests are rich in biodiversity and globally important; they are included in the World Heritage listed “Gondwana Rainforest of Australia”.

Beneath the canopy of coachwood, sassafras, prickly ash, giant strangler figs and dozens of other rainforest trees, threatened species abound. There are red-legged pademelons (a type of rainforest wallaby), spotted-tailed quolls, powerful owls, Wompoo fruit doves, and sphagnum frogs, to name a few.

The red-legged pademelon. Peter Jarman