Activists protesting at Whitehaven Coal’s Maules creek mine for the third straight year said they will next set their sights on Shenhua’s Watermark coal mine.
Civil disobedience at Maules Creek mine has seen protesters lock themselves to tress, trucks, gates and construction machinery in order to disrupt the development of the mine.
The Leard Blockades has seen over 350 arrests including locals, doctors, priests and ex Wallabies captain, David Pocock.
The construction of Maules Creek mine is now complete, with Whitehaven exporting millions of tonnes of coal, however the group responsible for the blockades, Front Line Action on Coal, say they have the Watermark coal mine in their sights.
Spokesman of FLAC, Phil Evans, said Shenhua will have a fight on its hands.
“Back in February we vowed that never again would we allow coal companies to undermine community rights to water, land and culture. And now, like we did to Whitehaven, we are issuing a warning to Shenhua,that thousands will be back again to take up this new fight and continue our push for a just transition to a renewable energy future,” Evans said.
“We supported the Gomeroi in the fight against Whitehaven, and we will support them again in this new fight against Shenhua. Coal is not good for humanity, and this is clearly on show with Shenhua’s blatant disregard for Gomeroi culture, productive farmland and important habitat.”
The approval of Watermark coal mine in early July was met with a storm of controversy.
The $1.2 billion open-cut coal project, located near the Liverpool Plains, plans to produce 10 million tonnes of coal per annum for 30 years, and has come under intense scrutiny from some local farmers in the region who are concerned over water and agricultural impacts.
Environment Minister Greg Hunt said the project had been approved subject to 18 of the most strict conditions in Australian history.
But some locals in the region are not convinced, vowing to fight the project’s development.
Farmer Andrew Pursehouse owns more than 4,000 hectares of agricultural land on the Liverpool Plains and says civil disobedience could be an option.
"This community is galvanised to stop whatever happens and it could lead to some pretty nasty stuff," Pursehouse said.
The NSW Minerals Council says discussions around the approval of Shenhua’s Watermark coal mine have been dominated by “outlandish exaggerations” by people who oppose the mine
“There has been virtually no regard for the facts, nor consideration of the huge economic benefits to the community, including hundreds of jobs, that this project will bring,” the mineral council’s CEO Stephen Galilee said.
“The Shenhua project will create 625 local jobs during the peak construction phase with 425 jobs during operation, in a region experiencing an unemployment rate of 7.5%.”
Galilee has previously called for tougher penalties for those who engage in extreme anti-mining protests.
“Members of extreme antimining groups like Lock the Gate, Frontline Action on Coal, the Sunrise Project and others have increasingly been involved in dangerous and illegal protest activity. Heavy equipment has been interfered with, access gates have been sabotaged or blocked , explosive charges have been tampered with, and a security vehicle has been rammed. These violent activities put protestors, mine workers and emergency service personnel at risk,” Galilee said in February.
“The increase in illegal access to mine sites and the danger this represents highlights the need for tougher penalties as a more effective deterrent.”