About 200 people rallied outside the NSW Supreme Court building on November 12 to demand justice for the small community of Bulga, in the upper Hunter Valley, and an end to the expansion of the Rio Tinto Warkworth coalmine that is threatening the future of their village.
The NSW Planning and Assessment Commission (PAC) has completed its latest report on Rio's plan to expand the Warkworth coalmine. As it has every time since the original plans were submitted in 2010, the PAC has given the mine the green light.
This is despite Bulga residents twice proving in court that expanding the mine would do more harm than good — not just for their community, but for all of NSW
In a statement, the Lock the Gate Alliance said: "The commission ignored a mountain of evidence that Rio's coalmine would make Bulga unliveable, ruin an irreplaceable bushland ecosystem, and desecrate the cultural heritage of the Wonnarua people. They ignored expert advice that the economics of the project don't stack up.
"It's almost certain that Rio will get their mine approval. Without a dramatic intervention in the approval process, the rest is a mere formality.
"But we've been fighting this coal mine for more than five years, and we're not about to give up now. The courts delivered us justice in 2013, but our state's unfair mine approval regime is set to take it away again. NSW Planning Minister Rob Stokes still has the power to intervene and save Bulga, and we're demanding that he do just that."
NSW Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham told the rally: "The age of coal is over. We want to save Bulga.
"Premier Mike Baird must act now. We won in the courts, but the company just keeps coming back. The government must put the interests of the people before those of a multinational company, who will just walk away with the profits."
Josh Creaser from 350.org said: "Stopping the Warkworth mine expansion is about climate justice. Australia is still wedded to coal.
“Tony Abbott is gone, but his 'coal is good for humanity' policies continue. In 2015, any political leader who cares about climate change needs to say 'no' to new coal.”
Kylie Kaizer, a long-time resident of Bulga, told Green Left Weekly: "Our family has had continuing problems with serious infections caused by pollution from the Warkworth mine. My children have suffered from ongoing diahorrea, stomach upsets, and shocking asthma, which is getting worse.
"The coal dust is everywhere, the air quality is dreadful. Emotionally, it is a terrible strain. If the situation doesn't improve, we will be forced to move.
"By rights, the company should do the right thing by the people of Bulga and leave. It is a David and Goliath battle, but we are determined to continue the fight."
Video: Voices from Bulga - JackinRedfern.