Ever since Mark H Durkan, the Minister for the Environment, denied Tamboran a chance to carry out test drills in Belcoo nearly two years ago, the Anti Fracking movement has taken a back seat in public consciousness. It felt like the dangers of Fracking were not as close as they once where, unless of course you’ve been one of the activists who, on a very cold Monday morning, blocked access to the land which will be used to carry out borehole testing in Woodburn Forrest.
Currently, protesters from the ‘Stop the Drill Campaign‘ have been blocking access to the site on a 24/7 basis since Monday. They are denying NI Water and Infrastrata access to the land, as NI Water is leasing the land in Woodburn Forrest to Infrastrata, an Oil company that has interests in unconventional fuel extraction, including Fracking.
Fracking is a form of unconventional gas extraction that involves drilling into the ground and forcing a mixture of lethal mixture of water, sand and chemicals into Shale rock formations, this forces the rock formations to crack, which releases the natural gas trapped within them. The gas is then collected as the high pressure mixture returns to the surface and is then separated from waste water which is meant to go through waste management. Protesters at Woodburn Forrest claim Infrastrata will be carrying out tests without a waste management plan, which could be disastrous for the local environment and water supply.
The process has attracted massive controversy wherever it has been introduced globally, as scientific evidence builds up the case that Fracking almost always pollutes local water supplies, protest movements have quickly followed suit. Many spurred on by the shocking documentaries by Josh Fox, ‘Gasland‘ and ‘Gasland II’ which document some of the evidence that was emerging in the US, that pollution connected to Fracking was causing serious health concerns, including various cancers.
The ‘Stop the Drill’ protesters find themselves at the bleeding edge of this now familiar Fracking battle. For some campaigners, veterans of the community led battle that forced Mark Durkan to oust Tamboran from Belcoo, it won’t be their first time dealing with politicians and police who will be enabling the potential poisoning of the local water supply. It’s clear to see that support for the protests is strong, with solidarity messages littering social media and a strong presence at the blockade. A local company even refused to tow away any vehicles participating in the blockade according to reports.
If this pressure continues to build on both NI Water and Stormont, we could see yet another Fracking company forced to back down in the face of community resistance. The campaign has called for people to support them in their attempts to peacefully stop the drill, time for people to answer their call.
Be sure to follow the #StopTheDrill hashtag on Twitter for updates on the campaign.
Tyler McNally is the Political Editor of ‘The Last Round,’ he’s also on the tweet machine.