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Monday, March 11, 2013

Whitehaven Tarrawonga coal mine disrupted by protest

Frontline Action on Coal in the Leard State Forest claimed today that production at Whitehaven's Tarrawonga coal mine was disrupted due to a protester sitting on a tree platform with ropes attached to the front gate. Another twenty people supported the protestor.

The person up the tree was Jonathon Moylan who issued the ANZ hoax letter in January to garner attention on ANZ Bank financing to the tune of $1.2billion the Maule Creek coal mine.

The group claimed in a media release that all coal output and worker access to Whitehaven's Tarrawonga Mine this morning has been stopped. According to a report in the Herald a spokesperson for Whitehaven said that haulage of coal to the company's coal preparation plant had been stopped but production inside the mine had continued normally.

Front Line Action on Coal is one of the many community groups backing the "Call to Country" campaign by the Lock the Gate Alliance, calling for a federal moratorium on new coal and coal-seam gas projects and a Royal Commission into state government coal mine approval processes.

"State and federal governments are rushing coal projects through before finding out the impact on our water, our health and our climate," said spokesperson Jonathan Moylan. "Will the federal approval process for Tarrawonga's expansion be just as shambolic as the other two mines which are ripping up our forest and our farming communities?" he said.

"If governments continue to put coal companies ahead of the long-term prosperity of the community, more protests are inevitable." said Mr Moylan.

A national alliance of coal and gas affected communities, Lock the Gate, launched the "Call to Country" website and campaign demanding federal intervention into coal and gas approval processes last week.

The protest caps a weekend gathering of community activists at the Leard Forest Listen Up music festival with about 60 participants including a busload of people from Sydney and activists from the Northern Rivers region and local farmers and activists. Greens Senator for NSW Lee Rhiannon attended and gave a report:

Before we set off for an action at the gates to the nearby Boggabri Mine Listen Up organisers filled us in on the campaign. Under a giant banner "Stop the coalonisers" Jonathan Moylan set out the local and global environmental imperatives that are driving a growing passion to stop these coal mine expansions.

Protecting the koala is one reason. All up 34 threatened species are found in the woodland where we camped. Waking up to the penetrating noise of the coal mine operations a few hundred metres away I was reminded of the urgency of this campaign, and wondered what impact this constant disruption has on the remaining wildlife.

The mines - both the proposed and existing mines - will clear 5,000 hectares of bushland. This is massive. The equivalent of 50,000 standard house blocks - a large suburb.

And this is bad news for rural properties as well. Tonnes of dust will cover this area if the new mines and mine expansions go ahead. I have seen the dust burden from open cut coal mines in the Hunter - it is massive and the operations rarely fall within the conditions that are suppose to apply. And there is the damage to local water resources.

Jonathan and Phil Laird filled us in on where the community campaign to stop this mega-mine destruction is up to. The diversity of tactics is the great strength of this enduring campaign - from peaceful direct actions to lobbying in the heart of the big end of town. There is some inspiring activism being generated here.

Watch a 1 minute video on Youtube of people singing "Open your minds up ,,, Close the mines down !!!!" and dancing at the entrance to one of the mines.

Fellow Queensland Greens Senator Larissa Waters raised questions in the Senate Environment and Communications legislation Committee about the approval of Whitehaven's Maules Creek coal mine and development of Gladstone Port. You can watch her questioning Environment Department bureacrats about Minister Tony Burke giving conditional approval for the Whitehaven Maules Creek Coal mine.


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