On Monday, 120 people converged on the Leard State Forest in North-West New South Wales to block construction work on the proposed Maules Creek Coal Mine. Stationing ourselves at the main entrances of the forest, we - local farmers, traditional owners and other community members, environmental campaigners, and those concerned about global warming - stopped work on the mine for the day. Five people were arrested,including 75 year old Raymond McLaren, who had never done anything like this in his life. Yesterday, the protest continued, as two activists locked themselves to a gravel truck, halting construction of the rail spur for the new mine.
Responding to the calls of local community members, this weekend was a gathering of people from all around the country to stop this mine. From young to old and coming from cities as far as Adelaide and Brisbane, we came together to protect our environment, our community, and our climate.
If you want to look at one of the dirtiest, and dodgiest projects around, Whitehaven’s Maules Creek Coal Mine would have to be at the top of the list.
Maules Creek is the biggest new coal mine under construction in Australia. The mine would emit the same amount of carbon pollution annually as the entirety of New Zealand. In the aftermath of the extraordinarily early start to the bushfire season in New South Wales, directly linked to global warming, and the horrible typhoon in the Philippines, which has a death toll in the thousands, projects that continue to pollute at a rate such as this should never be allowed to get off the ground.
But it’s worse than that. The Maules Creek project also sits of the Leard State Forest - a public forest that is highly endangered. The Leard State Forest is a Box-Gum Woodland, a critically endangered ecological community, which is home to 34 endangered species. Visiting the forest you can see the diversity of the community, from the thousands of bats that fly through the night, the snakes and lizards, and the koalas who live in the trees. The mine will destroy the homes of these precious animals, decimating one of the last remnants of these forests that we have left.
And there’s more. The mine will also hugely impact the local community. It will drain up to seven metres from the water table in the area - water farmers in the Liverpool Plains need to sustain their crops. When completed it will also spray 18 thousand tonnes of coal dust into the area, landing onto farmland, local towns and the community.
Yet, with each attempt to discuss these values and to reason with the industry and the Government about the problems with this proposal, the community has been ignored. The mine has been approved with construction allowed to go ahead despite accusations that Whitehaven, the proponents of the mine, have failed to respect the cultural heritage of the Gomeroi traditional owners of the land. Construction is going ahead even after claims that Whitehaven used misleading information to get approval for the mine. In fact, the Government is so determined for this mine to proceed they have recently introduced retroactive legislation aimed at blocking any successful court case against its approval.
The Government, and the coal industry, have laid down their cards. Despite the clouds hanging over the mine, the community opposition, and the destruction it will cause, they will push ahead at all costs. All around the country it is the same picture. Successive Governments have shown their hands - bending over backwards to get coal mining to push through coal mining at all costs. Whether it is in Maules Creek, the Galilee Basin, or many of the other fossil fuel projects in the pipeline, Governments and industry are doing everything they can to push ahead with these projects.
And so the time came. The time to do the difficult things. The time to stand up and say no. The time to stand up and say ‘enough is enough’.
It is unfortunate that it has to come to this, but we have no choice. When the Government fails, as it has so drastically with this mine and with so many other coal and gas mines around the country, it is up for the community to take a stand.
This weekend was a tough one, but an inspirational one too. Together over a hundred people came together in support a community fighting for what is important - our climate, our water, our land and our future. We came together to do what our Governments should have been doing - protecting these values in the face of a mine that shouldn’t go ahead. And whilst we don’t want to be doing this, unless something changes, we will have no choice but to do it again and again.
The Maules Creek Coal Mine cannot, and should not, go ahead. We are determined to make sure it doesn’t. Join us!