Communities in Maules Creek, New South Wales, are banding together with environmental activists in order to stop coal mining in the Leard State Forest, which threatens to kill wildlife, destroy forestry and worsen climate change due to increased greenhouse gas emissions.
Whitehaven Coal, a relatively small coal-mining company, is opening up new mines in various communities around Australia, aiming to maximise profit through the destruction of the environment.
Community organisation Frontline Action on Coal has mobilised communities and environmental activists with the establishment of the Leard Blockade in August 2012; an ongoing series of non-violent direct actions aiming to halt and delay work on the mines as long as possible. 233 arrests have been made this year of participants of the Leard Blockade. It is alleged that protesters have cost the coal mining industry millions of dollars, proving the effectiveness of the campaign.
The company is not happy about protests interfering with their mining work, with a Whitehaven spokesperson telling the Narrabri Courier on the 8th July: “[The protesters] are motivated by a self-interested green agenda and couldn’t care less about jobs and prosperity in the communities they claim to represent.”
I travelled to Camp Wando, the home of the campaign and many of the activists with the Australian Student Education Network, and will be liveblogging the actions which take place throughout the week. Watch this space!
9:30am: Scarlett has been removed from the truck and arrested. Police have left the scene.
8:55am: Beth has been removed from the truck and arrested.
8:30am: Police Rescue have arrived.
7:55am: Police have arrived at the scene.
7am: Two protests have begun to take place simultaneously, with one activist chaining himself to the gate of Whitehaven Coal's Gunnedah Coal Handling and Processing Plant in order to bar access to workers, halting the progress of two nearby mines. Another two protesters have locked themselves onto truck equipment intended for use by Idemitsu's Boggabri coal mine expansion, pictured below.
Tuesday 8th July:
8:10am: Police have left the protest site. Protesters have been advised to "get a job, you scabby bastards!" by a passing motorist.
8:05am: Jes has been removed from the lock-on device and arrested.
7:40am: Annette has been removed from the lock-on device and arrested.
7:30am: Police are continuing to remove the protesters from the lock-on device, which is filled with concrete, garbage and rotten pumpkin.
6:40am: Police have begun to cut open the lock-on device.
6:25am: Police Rescue have arrived to remove the remaining protesters.
6:10am: All protesters have been given a 'move-on' notice. The banner holders have moved off the road but those locked on have not and have been threatened with arrest.
5:55am: Police have arrived at the protest site.
5:40am: The protest has extended to a second road following an altercation with Verifact security personnel.
5:15am: A protest has emerged on Leard Forest Road. There are protesters with banners and two people locked-on, blocking the street to access from mining equipment.
Monday 7th July:
10:50am: The protesters involved in a crane lock-on, Sam and Courtney, have just been arrested by police, bringing the total number of people arrested at the Leard Forest to 231 this year.
The Leard Forest Alliance released this statement on July 7:
Fresh protests have swept the Leard State Forest with a protest action to hamper the construction of Whitehaven Coal’s controversial Maules Creek project.
Environmentalist Sam Hagen, 25, and social worker Courtney Hagan, 23, both from Queensland, have chained themselves to construction equipment, immobilising a crane at Whitehaven’s ongoing rail spur project that will be exclusively for the transport of coal.
Hagen said: “Unjust projects are approved by the greedy few, but paid for by the vast majority. This mine is without integrity to the core, from the immediate community that it impacts to the larger picture of climate change that it will exacerbate.”
Whitehaven Coal has just been subject to a two-week investigation by the Environmental Protection Agency, regarding concerns over blasting practices and their impact on local residents and dwellings.
Spokesperson for the Leard Forest Alliance, Helen War, said: “We’re calling on the Baird government to halt construction on the mine to allow for a full investigation of this scandal-plagued project.
“At what point will this destructive industry be held to account? We need a Royal Commission into the approval processes of coal mining operations, in order to shine the light on this disturbing Maules Creek project, and stop future projects proceeding with such reckless abandon.”
There have been 229 people arrested in the Leard State Forest and surrounding mines since January this year.