23 arrested in mine protests

TWENTY-THREE anti-coal protesters have been arrested this morning after more than 100 people converged on the Leard State Forest to express their opposition to Whitehaven Coal's $767 million Maules Creek mine.

Among those arrested include 92-year-old World War II veteran Bill Ryan and Tamworth-based ecologist Phil Spark. 

The protesters arrived at the mine site about 5am to climb atop mining machinery and hang banners containing messages such as "Save the Leard" and "Our land, our water, our future".

Three protesters, including a local farmer, locked themselves to mining equipment in a bid to disrupt construction of the mine, which has both state and federal government approval to proceed.

Police were called in and, according to the protesters, began "arresting or fining everyone on site" after 10am.

The large-scale protest - dubbed Act Up 3 by organisers - comes after the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report concluding that the planet could be irreversibly damaged if greenhouse gas emissions are not cut.

Leard Forest Alliance spokeswoman Helen War said: "Today's historic action is a demonstration of the strength of ordinary civilians to stand up against the destructive coal industry that is wreaking havoc on the planet.

"The diversity of such a large gathering of people from all over Australia sends a clear message: that Whitehaven Coal has no social licence to decimate the Leard Forest."

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