New South Wales acting Minister for Resources said most of the people taking part in protest against Whitehaven Coal’s Maules Creek mine are “professional protesters” and not concerned locals.
Maules Creek, Werrris Creek, Tarrawonga and Rocglen coal mines in the north-west NSW were all been affected by activists who had locked themselves to access gates and various pieces of machinery.
Production at the company’s coal processing plant was also halted and coal trains stopped as activists targeted multiple sites in a coordinated attack.
Organisers behind the action, Front Line Action on Coal, have been fighting for more than a year to have construction at Maules Creek mine halted.
Acting Minister for Resources and former Maules Creek resident, Kevin Humphries said it was not local community members who were protesting against the development of the mine, ABC reported.
"You will always have some people who don't want to have anything happening in their backyard and that's legitimate, no one's got a problem with that," he said.
"But most of those people who are protesting are professional protesters, they are pretty much down to a man and a woman paid.
Humphries also hit out at “senior political leaders” who condoned the protest activity after Greens Senator for NSW Lee Rhiannion took to Twitter to congratulate activists.
This time last year, Whitehaven CEO Paul Flynn said one of the biggest frustrations around developing the Maules Creek mine project has been activism from international activists and not just concerned locals.
Paul Flynn talked said it had been a “hard grind” in working to develop the operation.
“Activism has been a big part of that and that's been frustrating because so much of it has been funded by international activists, not concerned locals,” he said.
NSW Minerals Council chief Stephen Galilee said the recent protests show there are some “pretty active militants involved in some of these activities who are prepared to take it to the next level”.
He said the protesters were putting themselves and others at risk by chaining themselves to gates, machinery, train tracks and by scaling coal loaders.
"We want to make sure that people are safe and that's why my message is to the protesters in particular; have
A spokesman for Front Line Action on Coal told Australian Mining no one is paid to protest.
“The David and Golieth struggle of every day people who've stood up for their farms, forests, community, culture, and climate is one of necessity not opportunity,” the spokesman said.
“These brave Australians have made many sacrifices to be here and not one of the almost 200 Australians who took part in the peaceful shut-down of coal output from Whitehavens operations on Monday were paid to be there. “
Front Line Action on Coal invited Humphries to visit the Maules Creek community, who are “already feeling the frontline affects of these dangerous coal mines with booming blasts, choking dust and de-pressurising aquifers.”.