Rising Tide released the statement below on September 5.
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Activists have closed down a coal haulage railway construction project in the NSW Hunter Valley, to protest the rapid expansion of the export coal industry and its impacts on public health and the environment.
Activists arrived at the Hunter 8 Alliance construction compound at Rutherford before dawn this morning, erecting a wooden tripod to prevent access to the site. An activist is perched on the tripod, 10 metres over the gateway to the site, refusing to move.
Steve Phillips, spokesperson for protest organisers Rising Tide, said: “This railway construction project is designed purely for the benefit of coal corporations, yet it is being paid for with taxpayers’ money.”
“Why are taxpayers’ dollars being handed over to rich mining corporations, in order to prop up a polluting industry that is destroying human health and the environment?”
“There is a coal rush under way in NSW, and public health, waterways, ecosystems, and the global climate are under assault. Massive coal mine projects, coal haulage projects, and coal port projects are in the pipeline. If all these projects go ahead, the consequences will be devastating.”
Today's protest follows two consecutive days of community direct action against the Boggabri mine in the Gunnedah Basin – the coal industry's “new frontier”. A major expansion of the Boggabri coal mine was approved by the NSW Government in July despite huge ecological impacts and overwhelming community opposition.
“We call on state and federal governments to abandon their infatuation with mining companies, and their addiction to fossil fuels. It's time to take a stand and stop this coal rush before it's too late.”
The Maitland to Minimbah Third Track project is being constructed by Hunter 8 Alliance, which is a consortium of engineering company GHD, construction company John Holland, and the federally-owned Australian Rail Track Corporation.
The objective of the project is to lift coal haulage capacity on the Hunter rail corridor to 200 million tonnes per annum. It includes construction of 23km of new rail track, and reconditioning of 9km of existing track.
The federal government granted $114 million, through the ARTC, to the project.