This blog entry is by guest bloggers Alana, Daniel and Alex from Sydney. We left Sydney after class on Friday and made it here by about 9pm- a bit of a spur of the moment trip after realising we all had a free weekend to come and visit.
Arriving in the dark we could see the lights from Boggabri mine from a few kilometres away, and the noise of it is non-stop. We’d been warned about crossing over the private haul road on the way in, where the coal trucks come by every 7 minutes, and lo and behold we were stopped at the crossing to let one pass. We arrived to a friendly fire, tea, pumpkin soup, Dubi the dingo and a tee-pee, and caught up with the others on what they’d been up to for the past (almost!) two weeks.
It wasn’t until morning that we realised how close to Boggabri coal mine we were camped; across the road and a few hundred metres through the bush the tailings are piled high. Murray drove us round to have a look at the mine, but mounds of dirt have been piled up along the fence line to obstruct the view since the last photos were put online- which only added to the feeling that they don’t want the truth about the mines to be seen. We were still able to get a pretty clear idea of the scale of the mine; what was originally proposed as a small project has grown to be massive. What was even stranger was that as we continued to drive through the forest we realised the bush surrounding us would soon become like the mutilated land we’d just seen, if the expansion goes ahead.
We drove out along the ridge towards the community of Maules Creek, and had a clear view of the forest sweeping out below us on either side, gaining an even more sobering understanding of how much forest is at stake if the Maules Creek project and Boggabri expansion are approved.
At Maules Creek we visited Cliff, a farmer who has been opposed to the mines since he saw them coming fifteen years ag,o and has been vital support for the blockade from the start. Cliff showed us photos of the ridge along the back of his property where Myrtle trees are growing- the second most endangered tree in the state after the Wollemi Pine- and which will be crowded out with the advance of the coal mines.
From Cliff’s place we drove out to see the Tarrawonga mine site. The tailings piles have been growing taller and edging closer to the road- at the edge of the mound we spotted a tree being buried alive as the tailings grow. In the shrinking strip of land left between the tailings and the road was a startled roo; later at camp we spoke to locals who remember how the roos flooded out of the forest onto the properties when the mining began, and there have been less and less seen in the forests ever since.
Back at camp we got to meet some more locals, who brought us scones with jam and cream and stories of how the area has changed since the mining began.
The night ended with fireside chats about what we can do when we get back to Sydney, how we can help more Sydney folk get up here to learn more, and what’s next for us now that we’ve seen first hand the extent of the damage.