Four days, five protests against dirty coal

Quit Coal protest at Victorian parliament, September 3. Photo: Quit Coal/Facebook

Five anti-coal protests took place in Australia over four successive days. The actions targeted coal exports, coalmining, coal transport and coal port infrastructure.

The first action took place in Melbourne on September 3, where four members of Quit Coal climbed the roof of Victoria’s parliament house and unfurled a huge 86 square metre banner.

The banner displayed a quote from NASA climate scientist James Hansen — “Coal is the single greatest threat to civilisation and all life on our planet” — and asked, “Why is Baillieu funding coal?”

Quit Coal said they organised the protest after news that Premier Ted Baillieu had granted $45 million to expand brown coal operations in the Latrobe Valley.

The group said: “We risked being arrested and fined because the rest of Australia needs to know that a Baillieu’s plan for a brown coal export industry would effectively triple Victoria’s contribution to dangerous global warming. This is the equivalent of putting 70 million more cars on the road.”

Another protest took place the same day at the Boggabri coalmine in NSW. Two activists climbed 20 metres up the mine’s coal crushing plant and displayed a banner that read: “Stop the coal rush: protect health, water, climate.”

The state government recently approved an expansion to the Boggabri open cut coalmine — the first such mine in the Gunnedah basin. Approval is pending for another mine at nearby Maules Creek.

A farmer and spokesperson for the Northern Inland Council for the Environment, Phil Spark, said: “The NSW government is pushing full steam ahead to convert the Gunnedah Basin into a gigantic industrial mining zone just like the Hunter Valley.”

The next day, 84-year-old birdwatcher Russ Watts chained himself to a gate of the Boggabri coalmine to protest the expansion plans. He said: “The new and expanded coal mines proposed in the Boggabri area will destroy 5000 hectares of bushland which is habitat for 21 threatened bird species.”

The three Boggabri coalmine protesters were arrested and charged with hindering working of mining equipment: an offense that carries a maximum seven-year jail term.

Lock the Gate Alliance regional coordinator Carmel Flint said on September 6: “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.”

Newcastle-based climate action group Rising Tide organised two anti-coal protests on September 5 and September 6.

The first protest closed a coal haulage railway project under construction in Rutherford, near Maitland.

Rising Tide spokesperson Steve Phillips 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?”

The second protest temporarily stopped work on new coal loading facilities in Newcastle Harbour after two activists scaled a crane.

Phillips said: “Enough is enough. We need to stop the coal rush. It's time for state and federal governments to stop kowtowing to the mining companies, and get behind community demands for a clean, renewable future.”

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