A MINING company has revealed it is spending a massive $40,000 a week on security to protect its operations from attacks by anti-coal protesters.
Idemitsu Australia Resources, which operates the Boggabri Coal mine in the Leard State Forest, has been the target of a concerted campaign in recent months.
The highest profile stunt came before Christmas when two protesters climbed a coal crusher and unfurled a banner declaring their opposition to the project.
The company’s chief operating officer, Rod Bridges, said campaigners were constantly making incursions onto its site in an attempt to disrupt to operations.
Protesters are accused of regularly chaining themselves to equipment, damaging fences, tampering with locks and blocking fire access roads with fallen trees.
“We’re spending about $40,000 a week on added security measures,” the Queensland-based Mr Bridges said.
“We’ve been subject to ongoing protest action for seven years, but we’ve seen a heightened interest in Boggabri Coal in the last six months.
“They’ve caused 12- to 15-hour disruptions to our coal-hauling operations. I don’t know what their objectives are. It’s nuisance value.”
Mr Bridges is in no doubt the trouble emanates from the Front Line Action on Coal camp set up in the forest more than 500 days ago.
He said the camp was clearly in breach of two provisions under the Forestry Act and local politicians had been sought out to support calls for their eviction.
“We have a permanent presence opposite the protesters camp and if they move on to the mine site, we ask them to move off,” he said.
“The Leard State Forest is available for recreational camping under the act, but staying in one permanent encampment for 500 days is not recreation,” he said.
“And they are actually camped on the road easement of the Leard State Forest road ... which is totally illegal.”
Activist Jonathan Moylan, who founded the camp with Murray Drechsler and spends about one in every three weeks there, denied the criminal acts were linked to the camp.
He said people involved in the movement were simply exercising their democratic right to oppose the continued destruction of a forest during “the dying days of the coal industry”.
“Our actions are peaceful and they’re non-violent and we don’t engage in clandestine acts or anything like that,” he said.
“Everybody who comes to the camp is given training on non-violent protest and also walked through our participant’s agreement that talks about the limits of what we do. We don’t support property destruction and only take action that is going to maintain our support from the local community.”
He said he did not believe the protesters were breaking the law by camping there and said it would be a “dark day for democracy” if the police ever forcibly removed them.
“Everybody who is involved in this campaign is either involved because they’re directly affected or they’re giving up their time to support the small community of Maules Creek,” he said.