After years of inquiries from the victims of Groningen’s controversial gas-mining operations, the state has begun its official investigation into the matter in the form of public hearings as of the 27th of July.
While the first day focused primarily on the victims of the mining, subsequent hearings and interrogations in the coming weeks will begin to focus on company representatives from Shell and the Nederlandse Aardolie Maatschappij (NAM).
According to coverage by NU.nl, the first day of the hearing focused largely on the stories of victims who recounted the effects that the gas mining had on their personal lives. Their testimonies revealed feelings of hurt and disappointment in the government.
“How is it possible that we as Groningers have not been heard for so long? The Hague does not know us. They only come if there is money to be made”, said victim Sijbrand Nijhoff during the opening day hearings.
He, alongside fellow victim Herman de Muinck, recounted the ways in which the gas mining negatively impacted their lives: from earthquakes that would cause paintings to fall from walls and leave serious damage to their homes, to decades of seemingly unending disputes with NAM.
“Everyone who says: ‘Compensate the Groningers, and re-open the gas-tap,’ doesn’t have the slightest idea of what is going on here,” said former Groningen gas council chair, Susan Top. For years she has worked alongside victims in the hopes of finding answers from the government in regard to the damages caused by the gas mining.
Top resigned from the council last year, stating that she no longer wanted to feel partially responsible for the mistreatment of Groningers by the gas mining industry. She also stated her frustration in regard to the lack of apparent care from officials in the Hague regarding victims of the mining operation. She feels that the accounts of de Muinck and Nijhoff paint a picture that is painfully close to reality for many other victims of the operations.
As of today, the 28th of July, hearings with experts about gas mining have begun. You can follow the proceedings (in Dutch) through the livestream provided by RTV Noord.