Refusing to be "just the collateral damage of the coal industry," over 100 protesters succeeded in thwarting work Tuesday on a mining project they say will destroy a forest and the sacred and biodiverse spots within it while contributing to climate change.
The escalating resistance to the Maules Creek coal mine project in Leard State Forest, located in Australia's New South Wales, has been bubbling for over two weeks.
According to the Lock the Gate campaigners, some of the protesters blocked four entrances to the forest, while others scaled tripod structures and stopped Whitehaven Coal's preliminary work on the project.
"We're basically digging in to stop them from using the machines to clear the forest," the Sydney Morning Herald quotes Georgina Woods, spokeswoman for the Leard Forest Alliance, as saying. "It's not going to end until this forest gets a reprieve."
Also taking part in the protest was Maules Creek community member Roslyn Druce, who said, "This blockade has given our community hope that we are not just the collateral damage of the coal industry. It is the forest that has brought everyone together. This blockade is doing the job the Government should have done, protecting an irreplaceable forest."
Indigenous Gomeroi members have also criticized the government for putting the interests of the coal mining company above importance of their ancestral burials and sacred sites.
"It is not just about coal and money," Dolly Talbott said during an address on Friday. "For us, it’s also about family. It’s about our heritage, our culture, our ties to this country, that is what is being destroyed."
"One would think it would be given some consideration, after all, we are the traditional people of this country and given what is happening, one would have to ask the question, what is going on between our governments and this mining company?" Talbott said.
In an op-ed in the Guardian, fifth generation Australian farmer Phil Laird explains his fight against the mine, writing
The Maules Creek coal mine will drop the water table we depend on for our livelihood by five metres. It will dump thousands of tonnes of coal dust on surrounding farms each year. It has divided our once close community, and some environmentalists say the mine will damage the last remaining bushland left on the Liverpool Plains, a biodiversity hotspot with an important koala habitat.
The scale of this mine is breathtaking. To put it in context, Griffith university professor Ian Lowe estimated that if the Maules Creek mine were a nation, the burning of the coal produced by the mine would rank 75th in the world for total emissions, ahead of the greenhouse gas emissions of 140 entire countries.
"We’re all in this together," Laird writes.
Leard State Forest documented Tuesday's action with these photos on Flickr:
Twitter users have been highlighting the resistance as well:Tweets about "#leardblockade"