Caroona campaign suffers setback

January 16, 2010

The campaign to prevent longwall coal mining under the fertile Liverpool Plains region in NSW has suffered a setback, with a legal challenge to the mine being dismissed.

A January 6 statement from the Environmental Defenders Office states: "The Land and Environment Court today dismissed an appeal brought by the Caroona Coal Action Group Inc [CCAG] against the grant of the exploration licence to Coal Mines Australia Pty Ltd, by the Minister for Mineral Resources, finding that the licence was validly granted."

The defeat in the Land and Environment Court was not due to the appeal being poorly resourced.

CCAG has assembled a formidable legal team to try to break through the tightly constructed mining legislation that protects the actions of the coal industry and enables it to expand without regard to the natural resources it destroys nor the people whose land it swallows up.

CCAG media spokesperson Tim Duddy told the July 18, 2009 Northern Daily Leader: "We have gained considerable support from the Australian Farmers' Fighting Fund, the NSW Farmers' Association, the National Farmers' Federation and Namoi Water."

Farmers and community members have donated their own time and money to the campaign and have held various fundraising events.

The campaign enjoys broad community support, and will roll on regardless of this latest setback. CCAG has a strong legal team but this is by no means its only angle of attack.

Community members have been staffing a blockade at Duddy's Rossmer Park property in Caroona for over a year to prevent mining exploration vehicles from entering the farm. The blockade has been visited by politicians from across the political spectrum: from Nationals senator Barnaby Joyce, to the Greens' Lee Rhiannon, to ALP senator Doug Cameron.

Various climate and community activists have visited the blockade. An Aboriginal flag and an Australian flag are raised at each end of an old Mercedes which has been parked across an access road, and opposite sits a caravan, a makeshift shade structure and desks.

Notably Jack Mundey, secretary of the NSW Builders Labourers Federation during the famous green bans of the 1970's, visited the blockade to relate his experiences to the CCAG and give campaign advice.

Tony Maher (national president of the Mining and Energy Division of the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union), Grahame Kelly (northern district secretary CFMEU) and Ross Whittaker (local CFMEU representative, Gunnedah and employee of Whitehaven Coal) also visited the blockade in mid November 2009.

On January 5, the seventh Socialist Alliance national conference unanimously passed a motion in support of the CCAG campaign. The resolution called on "unions whose members would be employed by the project, predominantly the CFMEU, to place a green ban on the project.

"The loud opposition to this project is broad and deeply felt within the community and this action will set an important precedent for community and union campaigning.

"The Socialist Alliance recognises that this action would be a brave one on the part of the union. We call upon the ACTU and the Australian Farmers Fighting Fund to extend the legal assistance currently being used for legal action to stop the mine, to defend the unions involved against any legal action taken against them during this campaign."

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