Maules Creek protestors step up blockade amid attempts to shut it down

Media Release, 15 January 2014

Protestors today have again blockaded the site of Whitehaven’s controversial Maules Creek coal project in North West NSW, ensuring work is stopped from clearing the forest for construction of rail infrastructure.

The project, located in North West NSW near Boggabri, has been dogged by controversy. It will clear fell a large area of Leard State Forest, including critically endangered woodland and endangered wildlife habitat. It is opposed by members the local farming community with the blockade bringing farmers, Traditional Owners and environmentalists together.

Last Monday protestors established a blockade at the edge of the forest and prevented bulldozers from felling trees for an access road. Construction work was halted for the day. Today protestors are once again in place and vowing to remain.

Phil Spark, local ecologist and farmer said, “With so much at risk – an endangered ecological community and some of the most magnificent species on the planet – it is a scandal that this mine has been able to get this far.”

“With the former Deputy Prime Minister as Chairman, Whitehaven may have very powerful friends in State and Federal politics, but they don’t have right on their side and they don’t have a right to destroy a whole ecological community forever. That’s not the way we do things in Australia,” concluded Spark.

In a further development, yesterday NSW Forestry closed the forest due to concerns about the risk of fire as the heat wave spreads east. However, contrary to normal practice, it appears Whitehaven have been allowed to use heavy equipment, bulldozers and other machines that cause sparks – a situation that would have any other business or individual heavily fined.

Ahri Tallon of the Leard Forest Alliance, said, “Forestry has shut down the Leard State Forest because they are concerned about the risk of fire. Building coal mines, bulldozing the forest is the last things anyone should be allowed to do if the risk of fire is too great for everyone else.”

The Maules Creek project has drawn the attention of people from around Australia due to its impact on critically endangered Grassy Whitebox woodland, and cultural heritage sites of the Gomeroi people, the traditional owners of the Leard State Forest.

Traditional Owner Elder Uncle Dick Talbot said, “Leard Forest holds many significant sites for us. Whitehaven Coal has completely ignored our pending legal request for an order to stop work to protect our cultural sites.”

Mr Talbot is calling for Whitehaven to stop work while a decision is pending on their request, saying, “I will fight on to save my culture until my last breath. Claims that we are a minority are disrespectful to senior elders and traditional owners, and we would like an apology.”