Protesters block entrance to Whitehaven’s Maules Creek Mine project

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

According to activist group Front Line Action on Coal, more than 120 people have converged on the area to oppose the mine’s development.

The protesters have been running a camp near Maules Creek for over 500 days with a spokesperson for the group telling Australian Mining last week that it was not planning on letting the issue go.

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

Traditional Owners the Gomeroi people also say Whitehaven have not properly assessed the "culturally significant forest, artefacts and cultural values".

Gomeroi traditional owner Stephen Talbot said consultation with the Indigenous community was not sufficient and elders today said they feel “disrespected and gagged” by the company’s lack of compassion for their cultures and traditions.

A man at the picket line told AAP the state forest was not worth losing for a coal mine.

"Our civilisation needs the mining industry but in this case, they are just going to destroy a forest for the coal that they want under it," he said.

"The state forest out here is too precious to sacrifice – there's not much of it left."

The Northern Inland Council for the Environment filed a challenge to appeal the proposed mine in July, challenging the validity of former federal environment minister Tony Burke’s decision to approve the project.

The group claim Burke approved the mine without viewing an adequate offset package.

The court’s decision on whether the project should proceed is pending.

In the meantime Whitehaven have been steadfast in its plans to continue with the mine, stating that the ‘mere commencement of litigation’ would not stop the company in continuing with construction work.

Chief of the company Paul Flynn said the mine would be bring jobs and economic benefits into the community.

"Maules Creek attracts a lot of attention, but it is a significant asset for the business with reserves of 360 million tonnes. It will double our profile,” he said.

"It is also going to be a significant contributor to the state with another 400 – 500 jobs in the area and $6.5 billion in royalties and corporate tax over the first 21 years of the project."

Last week activists posted a call to arms video calling for as many people as possible to help stop the mine.

Cliff Wallace, who has lived in the area for more than 28 years said the small community needs “as much help as we can out of the cities on this one.”

“It is a plea for help out here.”

The project was granted with strict environmental conditions in February before being given the final go ahead in early July.

The mine will produce about 60 per cent semi-soft coking coal, and 40 per cent high-quality thermal coal.

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

Whitehaven today issued a statement calling protests at the project sites “a nuisance” but said the company will not be deterred from getting on with the job of building Maules Cree mine.

"Our primary concern in the meantime is that any protests are carried out lawfully and do not endanger the safety of mine employees and emergency service personnel," Whitehaven said.

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