More than 500 protesters from around NSW assembled at a property near the proposed new Anvil Hill open-cut coalmine in the Upper Hunter over the June 2-3 weekend. The state government approved the mine on June 7.
The protest had the feel of a country jamboree — the Boy Scouts held a sausage sizzle while the Hare Krishnas from an Upper Hunter farm community served up vegan food. The campsite was nestled in a wooded gully, one of the fast disappearing remnant forests in the region.
Local speakers explained the impact of the Hunter Valley's existing coalmines on their communities — including dust, damage to the wine industry, and water degradation. Ray Barry, a farmer from nearby Denman, thanked the diverse crowd for helping to preserve the rural character of the area. This character is obvious as the road for the last part of the two-and-a-quarter hour drive from Newcastle passes through vineyards, cattle grazing fields, dairy farms and horse studs.
This is now all under threat. The mine's owner, Centennial Coal, admits that the mine will "produce up to 10.5 million tonnes per annum" of coal for 21 years. According to Greenpeace, one of the organisers of the event along with Rising Tide, when burned this coal will release greenhouse gases equal to 4 million more cars on the roads.
Wybong Creek, which feeds the Goulburn and Hunter Rivers, flows through the site of the proposed mine. Carolyn Sherwood from Pyramid Wines explained how its vineyard is already affected by three mines, and Anvil Hill will further affect its access to water. Three creeks, possibly four, will be under threat due to the mine.
In an open field near the campsite, the crowd lined up to form a huge human sign reading "Save Anvil Hill", carrying signs that read "I love clean energy and I vote" while a helicopter captured the spectacle from above.
Local resident and former coalminer Graham Brown told Green Left Weekly that he had collected signatures at the protest for a petition addressed to Frank Sartor, the NSW Labor government's planning minister. Of the 212 people who signed, 70 were from the Hunter Valley — 19 of these were from the local 2333 local postcode that covers an area within abut 20 kilometres of Anvil Hill. Brown said that this further disproves any idea that the mine has unanimous local support.