A small but vocal group of people gathered outside the Land and Environment Court in Sydney on August 20 to protest against Rio Tinto’s plans to extend its Mount Thorley Warkworth coalmine near Bulga, in Singleton Shire in the NSW Hunter Valley.
The protesters held banners saying “Don’t bugger Bulga”, “Stop coal and gas destroying NSW” and “Save the Warkworth Sands Woodlands”, while they chanted slogans such as “Rack off Rio Tinto.”
Several groups were represented at the rally, including Stop CSG Sydney, Beyond Zero Emissions, The Wilderness Society and the Nature Conservation Council.
The protest was held to highlight Rio Tinto receiving approval to mine coal near Bulga. The area had been off limits to coalmining due to the existence of several endangered species, including the spotted tail quoll. But the NSW government overturned a Ministerial Deed of Agreement signed in 2003 to protect the area and gave Rio Tinto approval to mine this precious area.
The Bulga community is appealing the government’s decision in the Land and Environment Court. They say stopping the mine expansion is needed to protect their village, their health, the environment and the future of the region.
At the rally, Bev Smiles from the Hunter Communities Network listed the reasons why it is a terrible idea to mine the previously protected area. She said it would put endangered species in peril, put residents of the area at risk from respiratory illnesses caused by particulate coal matter and would harm the local economy.
On August 22, the Hunter Communities Network held a second protest outside the Land and Environment Court, which had relocated to Singleton. The case will continue into early September.