Coal mine protesters could face 7 years jail: not on says anti-coal group


The Lock the Gate Alliance released the statement below on September 6.

* * *

Lock The Gate Alliance has this morning criticised the NSW government for its excessive and heavy-handed response to peaceful protest against coal mining expansion in the Gunnedah Basin earlier this week.

Three peaceful protesters arrested this week at the Boggabri Coal Mine have been charged with an offence under s201 of the Crimes Act — hinder working of mining equipment — which carries a maximum jail term of seven years.

“The excessive charges laid against peaceful protesters this week are clearly an attempt to intimidate rural communities who are concerned about the reckless expansion of mining in NSW,” said Carmel Flint, a regional coordinator with Lock the Gate Alliance.

“Yesterday, a gentle elderly birdwatcher, 84-year old Russ Watts AM, was charged with hindering mining activities and he now faces a maximum penalty of seven years imprisonment for sitting quietly on a chair for a couple of hours.

“Mr Watts was voluntarily leaving the site after a warning from the NSW Police but was arrested anyway.

“This was his first protest and he has an exemplary record, but he was given onerous bail conditions which prevent him from visiting the town of Boggabri or entering the land of any mining company.

“It would seem that violent criminals have less to fear in NSW then peaceful protestors who dare to challenge mining companies.

“It is extraordinary that a foreign company, like Idemitsu which owns the Boggabri mine, can gain free access to our public lands for open-cut coal and then throw its weight around against peaceful citizens who express dissent at the outcome.

“The NSW government has clearly made a decision to protect mining companies at the expense of human health, water and the environment and the NSW police have become a pawn in the game of big coal companies.

“We are calling on the NSW police minister and the Commissioner to reassert the independence of the NSW police force and to respect the rights of Australian citizens to peaceful protest.”

If you like our work, become a supporter

Green Left is a vital social-change project and aims to make all content available online, without paywalls. With no corporate sponsors or advertising, we rely on support and donations from readers like you.

For just $5 per month get the Green Left digital edition in your inbox each week. For $10 per month get the above and the print edition delivered to your door. You can also add a donation to your support by choosing the solidarity option of $20 per month.

Freecall now on 1800 634 206 or follow the support link below to make a secure supporter payment or donation online.