Over the last 6 months, I’ve been posting updates about Whitehaven Coal’s Maules Creek coal mine – the biggest coal mine in development in Australia. In that time, over 180 people have been arrested for taking non violent direct action to delay the project, while hundreds more have travelled to the mine to support the blockade and thousands more have attended fundraisers and info-evenings across Australia. Never before has Australia seen such resistance to a coal mine development. It has set a precedent for any future coal mine developments: there shall be determined community resistance.
The following is an update from one of 350.org Australia’s organisers on the ground at Maules Creek, Josh Creaser, where this weekend he walked onto the mine site with 50 others, delaying work by hours. This is his story…(for regular updates, you can follow 350.org Australia on Facebook here)
Yesterday I walked with 50 people, many of whom I’d met only hours earlier, into the heart of Whitehaven’s proposed coal mine. As the sun rose we found ourselves in an amphitheater of destruction – on every side of the valley the bulldozers have ripped up the forest, destroying an endangered ecosystem. But together we represented yet again the power of the community campaign to stop this coal mine.
Peacefully we walked past the security force and blocked the road in front of a large machinery yard. As we blocked these machines from undertaking destruction we planted small iron bark saplings, one of the species being destroyed, in the bare earth. We planted the saplings to symbolize our hope and resistance to the ongoing destruction.
This new group of friends and peaceful activists travelled from as far a field as Canberra, Brisbane, Newcastle and Sydney and a farmer from a nearby property joined us. Diverse in our backgrounds and passions, united by their desire to stop this coal mine.
The folks who travelled here had taken part in the Convoy against Coal-ruption. The trip was an opportunity to learn about communities impacted by coal mining and the insidious links between politicians and extractive industries in NSW. Inspired by the trip and the knowledge that the forest was being destroyed as we first met in camp – only 12 hours after arriving at Wando, the blockade, camp these folks started the long walk in to the mine site to peacefully block work. It was dark, cold, muddy – but each of us warmed and given confidence with the knowledge that together we were powerful, our cause vital.
This is a critical moment for the campaign. On Friday the Maules Creek Community Council lodged a court case to challenge Whitehaven’s clearing of the forest over the winter months. In their original management plan for the clearing of the forest there was a commitment for no clearing to occur over winter. The reason being that it is a time when a number of species hibernate and so would have no chance of escape. But now Whitehaven have reneged on that plan, they have begun clearing and they are being taken to court. The Community Council will allege that the change of their clearing plan was illegal and that work must be suspended until there is a full investigation. But until we hear that verdict, it is still so crucial for folks to be taking peaceful action to stop the clearing up here at the Leard Blockade.
For two years I have read about and visited the campaign to stop the Maules Creek coal mine. Banding together with 50 others to peacefully block the forest clearing was a powerful and inspiring moment. Each of us has made a commitment to return home and share our story with our friends, family and networks. We’ll invite them all to join us and make the trip to the blockade. If you’ve been considering for some time whether this blockade needs you –the answer right now is quite simple, Yes It Does.