Australia's oldest coalmine targeted

October 10, 2009

Hundreds of people braved gale-force winds and driving rain to attend Climate Camp '09 in Helensburgh, on NSW's south coast, over October 9-11. The activists took part in workshops, performances and an Aboriginal welcome and smoking ceremony.

Over the first two days, the camp also continued building and organising the mass peaceful action planned for the final day, which targeted the Metropolitan Colliery, the oldest coalmine in Australia.

The mine has just been given approval to mine directly under the Woronora water catchment for the next 20 years.

Workshops at the camp included: the impacts of longwall coalmining on the southern coalfields; organising beyond the government's Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme; and healthcare and climate change.

Sixty people attended a workshop called "Beyond coal — green jobs and the transition to clean energy". Speakers included retired coalminer Graham Brown, NSW Greens MLC John Kaye, and Matt Garner, a young steelworker and Socialist Alliance member.

The workshop discussed the need to phase out coal and invest in a renewable energy sector to ensure a socially just transition for workers.

Rachel Woods, a participant at Climate Camp, told Green Left Weekly: "Despite difficulties, the camp has been an inspiration. Hundreds of people from all walks of life have come together to fight climate change.

"We've had some disagreements with local residents [the coalmine provides much of the community's employment, and camp organisers were conscious of trying to forge links with local workers in the lead up to the weekend].

"That has been tough, but concern is strong in this community too. This camp shows the strength and seriousness of the environment movement and the importance of the issue."

The camp culminated in the action on October 11, when 600 protesters blockaded the entrance to the colliery, owned by the world's largest coal company, Peabody Energy. Coal trucks were canceled due to the protest.