Members of the clergy have joined activists at the Maules Creek mine site today as protests to stop the project turn holy.
The gathering included four Uniting Church Ministers, two Priests, one Catholic and one Buddhist, a number of lay people as well as representatives from the Gomeroi community.
The religious leaders present at the protest are members of the Australian Religious Response to Climate Change.
Sources on the ground said a number of Whitehaven Coal trucks were being prevented from entering the work site as the religious leaders joined in the blockade to a hold prayer vigil.
Spokesperson for the group, Rev. John Brentnall from Gunnedah, said the people blockading should be seen as “protectors rather than protesters”.
“They are trying to protect our water for agriculture, our air, the Leard Forest with its critically endangered wildlife and a safe climate for our children, as well as the Gomeroi people’s sacred sites.
“Those who are destroying the forest for an open-cut coal mine are interested only in short-term profits. While profit has its place, all the great religious traditions place it well below other values we hold dear,” continued Brentnall.
Protest at Whitehaven Coal’s site in north-west NSW have been ongoing for many weeks, with blockades a regular occurrrence.
Activists say the development of the mine will destroy the Leard Forest and claim Whitehaven has provided false biodiversity offset information regarding box gum trees.
Gomeroi traditional owners say the company is destroying sacred sites as part of the mine’s development and are calling for Environment Minister Greg Hunt to call a stop work order.
Whitehaven says it is committed to going ahead with the project and says it has all the necessary government approvals to do so.
“Whitehaven has worked incredibly hard with all Registered Aboriginal Parties to ensure sites of cultural significance are respected and preserved,” a spokesman told Australian Mining.
“Whitehaven notes that the New South Wales Department of Planning and Infrastructure has advised the company that is entirely satisfied Whitehaven is in compliance with its obligations under the Aboriginal Archaeology and Cultural Heritage Management Plan (AHMP)
It has previously called protesters a “nuisance” and said safety was the company’s key concern.
“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,” the company said.
The Minerals Council of Australia has called for The Greens to stop supporting acts of civil disobedience as activism becomes increasingly dangerous.
The council says people are in danger of serious injury as protesters continue to chain themselves to vehicles and dangle from machinery dressed as bats,