Helen, 38, rushed to the hospital where she nursed George Bender through the night. The next day, the father of five died. He was 68.
“He said, “I am so sorry, Helen. I shouldn’t have done that, my brain just snapped,” recalls Helen. “He died from a broken heart.”
George's death came while energy company Origin Energy were making moves to take control of George’s most cherished farmland for the mining of coal seam gas, a controversial process which farmers and environmental groups say damages the land.
For more than a decade, energy giants including Origin and QGC had been mining CSG on the land neighbouring George's farm in south-east Queensland, causing, he said, pollution of the pristine water, death of his prized livestock and a gradual destruction of the land he had nurtured for decades.
“No-one told Dad there were going to be vents that emit methane straight into the atmosphere,” says Helen. “No-one said there would be drains that would continuously leak salty brine water all over the land.”
(Origin spokeswoman Natasha Patterson tells WHO: “I am quite confident that we acted respectfully with George at all times.”)
Now, Helen is on a crusade to raise the curtain on the practice of mining CSG on farmland, in the hope of preventing any such tragedy again.
“I could just walk away, but I really do love Australia and I love the farmers,” says Helen. “I can guarantee you the nation doesn’t know the truth and I think they deserve the truth.”
For more, pick up a copy of this week’s WHO.
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