OPERATIONS at Whitehaven Coal’s Tarrawonga mine near Boggabri were brought to a halt yesterday morning as a group of 30 Maules Creek residents and environmentalists protested at the haul road.
The Frontline Action on Coal protesters sang, danced and hula-hooped for about two hours, blocking trucks to and from the mine before being moved on by police by 9am.
Led by Maules Creek resident Anne-Marie Rasmussen, the group later entered the Whitehaven office at Boggabri, where they were again asked to leave by police.
The group was protesting the impact of the company’s planned Maules Creek coalmine and its potential impact on the Leard State Forest and surrounding farmland.
Frontline Action on Coal claims the mine would destroy 625ha of critically-endangered box gum woodland and drop the water table by at least 5m.
The environmentalists travelled from Sydney, Brisbane and the North Coast for the protest.
“We’d been on the road near the forest for about two hours and when police arrived, everybody peacefully packed up their gear and left,” Ms Rasmussen said.
“There’s a whole lot of concern around the Maules Creek mine – we can’t afford to lose any more forest and farmland.”
Ms Rasmussen owns a 365ha hobby farm Kashmir in Upper Maules Creek, about 30km from the proposed Maules Creek mine.
“A lot of farmland has already been bought up by the mines and we don’t want the water table to go down,” she said.
“I’m building a farmstay business and planning to make a tourist business with sulky drives and rides along the creek.”
A spokesman for Whitehaven said while the protest stopped coal haulage for a short time, the protest didn’t have a huge impact on operations.
The protest comes in the midst of a challenge by the Northern Inland Council for the Environment in the federal court, with the group questioning former environment minister Tony Burke’s approval of the Maules Creek and Boggabri coalmines, saying Mr Burke had started an investigation into whether his own approval was based on false and misleading information.
Last week the council lodged an application for an injunction to prevent Whitehaven Coal from clearing land for the Maules Creek mine, but the injunction was dismissed after a one-day hearing, allowing the company to continue with its mine preparations.