84-year old locks himself to mine gate in anti-coal protest

A group of activists protesting coalmining near Maules Creek in NSW, released the statement below on September 4.

* * *

An 84-year old birdwatcher, Russ Watts, has this morning chained himself to the gates of a coal mine in protest at the environmental damage that will be caused by a massive expansion of open-cut coalmining in Leard State Forest and surrounds, east of Narrabri.

The gates are located on a haulage road along which coal trucks travel to transport coal from the Boggabri Coal Mine. The coal is then moved by train to the port of Newcastle for export to Japan.

The birdwatcher has been joined by 20 members of the local community of Maules Creek and surrounds who are set to be affected by three massive open-cut coalmines planned for the area.

This is the second day of protest in the area after two men yesterday scaled the coal-crushing plant at the Boggabri Coal Mine and were later arrested.

Watts 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, including the Barking Owl, Hooded Robin and Grey-crowned Babbler.

“The mines will largely destroy Leard State Forest, which is a haven for birds and other wildlife and a public area that is important for recreation and the quiet enjoyment of nature.

“The mines will also put at risk the local community and environs, producing 18,000 tonnes of dust each year that will be a major health risk for surrounding families. The NSW government has washed its hands of the Maules Creek community and effectively given the green light to convert the area into an industrial zone.

“The reckless expansion of mining into the Gunnedah Basin is occurring without proper assessments of risks and is being driven by multinational companies seeking export dollars at great cost to local communities.

“We are calling on the federal environment minister to intervene and prevent the destruction of Leard State Forest and surrounding areas under federal environment laws.”