Activists blockade Maules Creek mine site as protests continue

Protesters have formed a blockade at Whitehaven Coal’s Maules Creek mine development as part of their ongoing fight to stop the project going ahead.

According to activist group Lock The Gate, protesters have established a blockade at the edge of the forest and are preventing bulldozers from felling trees for an access road.

They say construction work at the site has been halted with the group vowing to stay put.

Protesters say the controversial coal mine will destroy the Leard State Forest, affect aquifers used by farmers and emit coal dust.

Having lost a court case which would have prevented the $767 million project from going ahead, the group says it will continue its fight against Whitehaven Coal’s new mine.

“We have exhausted every legal and political avenue to make our voices heard. Whitehaven’s mine will destroy our community and our livelihood. We’ve seen this happen in mining areas all over the country – eventually the farmers will be forced to move out. My family has lived here for generations: we are prepared to fight for this place,” a local farmer said.

Traditional Owners are also opposed to the project and say Whitehaven have not properly assessed the "culturally significant forest, artefacts and cultural values".

“Leard forest holds many significant sites for us. Whitehaven Coal have completely ignored our pending legal request for an order to stop work to protect our cultural sites,” Elder Dick Talbot said.

Whitehaven said the protests are a nuisance and deny that activists have affected work at the mine site.

“Protests at our project sites are a nuisance but they will not deter Whitehaven from getting on with building the Maules Creek Mine,” a spokesperson told Australian Mining.

“Today's protest has not disrupted the progress of construction works.

“Our primary concern is that any protest activity is carried out lawfully and does not endanger the safety of mine employees or emergency service personnel.”

Managing director Paul Flynn has previously said the company was on track to deliver on key targets.

“We are absolutely determined to maintain momentum and achieve first coal sales in the first quarter of CY2015,” Flynn said.

Once at full production, Maules Creek will produce 13 million tonnes annually, of which 10.5 million tonnes will be saleable coal.

The mine is expected to create over 800 jobs and will pay $6.5 billion in royalties and corporate tax over the first 21 years of the project.

However with a protest camp set up near the site for over 500 days, activists say they are not willing to let the issue rest.

“We’ll be continuing to take action and remain in the forest until we can protect it,” a spokesperson for Front Line Action on Coal said.

In December three protesters who who chained themselves to gates and vehicles to prevent Whitehaven from accessing the site were arrested.

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