Over 100 people are today shutting down construction of the controversial Maules Creek coal mine project in northwest NSW, escalating a blockade of the site that has been underway for over two weeks.
Four groups of protesters have blocked four entrances to Leard State Forest, and another two are in the project area on tripod structures that are preventing Whitehaven Coal from continuing preliminary construction work.
Maules Creek local Roslyn Druce is among the 100 people at the blockade today and 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.”
Among those risking arrest today is Bill Ryan, a legally blind 91-year old Kokoda veteran, who is taking part with his 65-year old son. Bill is joined by men and women of all ages and backgrounds, all of them refusing to allow Whitehaven Coal’s contractors to enter the site to build the mine.
Leard Forest Alliance spokesperson Georgina Woods said, “The men and women taking part in this blockade have been compelled to make sacrifices and put themselves at risk of arrest to protect something of great value. This mine should never have been approved: Environment Minister Greg Hunt can put a stop to all of this by revoking the approval that was mistakenly given to clear this forest for coal mining. We certainly won’t be giving up on this community, this forest and the people that love it.”
11AM UPDATE: One person arrested. Blockades still in place stopping construction of new open-cut coal mine at Leard State Forest. News stories now online: Sydney Morning Herald, News.com.au, AAP, The Guardian.
12:30PM UPDATE: Two more people arrested today (total arrests so far today is three). Four tripods still in place on perimeter gates.
UPDATES: Follow #leardblockade on Twitter for updates throughout the day.
PHOTOS: High resolution photos available to view and download HERE.