'New Bulga' stands against coalmine expansion

August 12, 2016

More than 200 people gathered in Sydney's Domain on August 7 to mark the symbolic founding of "New Bulga" behind the NSW State Parliament building. The pop-up village of New Bulga was set up to continue the fight by the residents of the village of Bulga in the Upper Hunter Valley against ongoing moves by Rio Tinto to expand its Warkworth coalmine closer to the town.

Despite several wins for the residents against Rio Tinto in the courts, the Baird Coalition government has merely changed the law to accommodate the company's plans. After six years of protests, the residents of Bulga are determined to continue their campaign to save their historic village.

Anne-Maree McLaughlin, from the Bulga Milbrodale Progress Association, said life would be unbearable for whoever is left in the village, and called on state planning minister Rob Stokes and the Baird government to "restore the rights of local communities to appeal the merits of coalmine approvals in court," in a last-ditch bid to save Bulga.

"We are sick of the wilful ignorance of the government regarding the destructive impacts from the mining and coal extraction," McLaughlin said. "We are heart sick and physically sick from years of trying to protect our homes, our heritage, water and land."

McLaughlin said the government and mining industry should be held accountable for any harm caused by the mine expansion.

Bulga residents and supporters have staged a protest next to the mine, just west of Singleton. The group have maintained a roadside camp site at the junction of Wallaby Scrub and Putty roads for several weeks, gathering a petition which they hope will force the state government to save their village and the surrounding critically endangered ecological community — the Warkworth Sands Woodlands.

They are also fighting to save the historic convict-built Wallaby Scrub Road that would be closed under the mining expansion plans.

Among the guest speakers at the New Bulga rally in Sydney were Aboriginal elders Kevin Taggart and his sister Patricia Hansson. The pair were arrested and charged on July 18 at the protest site opposite Warkworth mine.

The Bulga residents continued their campaign with a rally in Sydney's Martin Place on the morning of August 8, demanding that the state government take action to protect their town and halt the implementation of Rio Tinto's mine expansion plans.

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