Cliff’s camp a home of mining resistance

YOU won’t see Cliff Wallace locked to a bulldozer, chained to a gate, or suspended precariously from a coal loader.

Nevertheless, the 62-year-old farmer is a pivotal figure in the resistance against Whitehaven Coal’s mine at Maules Creek.

It was Mr Wallace who opened his home and his heart to a bunch of strangers after their eviction from the Leard State Forest in February.

TAKING A STAND: Maules Creek farmer Cliff Wallace, who is hosting dozens of anti-mining protesters on his property, vows he will not shut the camp down ‘for any reason’. Photo: Gareth Gardner 050614GGA02

TAKING A STAND: Maules Creek farmer Cliff Wallace, who is hosting dozens of anti-mining protesters on his property, vows he will not shut the camp down ‘for any reason’. Photo: Gareth Gardner 050614GGA02

It is Mr Wallace who continues to provide them sanctuary despite the intense scrutiny it brings upon him from police, council and mining companies.

“I have no skeletons,” the no-nonsense, softly spoken farmer said. “Though they would be trying day and night to find something on me.”

To reach Camp Wondo, on Black Mountain Rd near Boggabri, you must first pass through a police checkpoint – on this day manned by a handful of officers.

Vehicles are usually checked for defects and searched for contraband, such as devices that could be used to lock a protester onto mining equipment.

This attention is understandable given Camp Wondo is the headquarters from which many a “direct action” protest has been launched.

The camp’s population rises and falls as diverse groups of like-minded individuals enter and leave – some staying a few days, others a few months.

The one constant, though, is Mr Wallace – affectionately referred to as “Cliffy” by some of those who have come to know him best.

Before arriving in Maules Creek nearly 30 years ago, Mr Wallace managed orchards in Victoria where he was responsible for keeping up to 350 workers in line at peak picking times.

It proved good practice for ensuring a camp containing dozens of highly energised, strong-willed people runs smoothly.

“We don’t have much trouble,” he said. 

The mining companies operating in the district, Whitehaven Coal and Idemitsu Australia Resources, wish they could say the same.

The manner in which Mr Wallace has embraced all-comers to the camp, allowing them to pitch their tents just metres from his own modest home, makes any betrayal of trust so much more painful.

Recent revelations that security firms, hired by Idemitsu to protect its Boggabri coalmine from attacks, deployed spies to infiltrate the protesters’ inner-sanctum is a breach not easily forgiven or forgotten.

But that tumultuous period has, in the words of one protester, allowed the camp’s members to “refocus” on one simple goal: to stop mining in the ecologically significant Leard State Forest.

If that objective, however unlikely, is to be achieved, then Mr Wallace – who holds grave concerns about the impact the mine will have on his groundwater – will be a key player.

“I will not be shutting the camp down for any reason,” he said.

Smartphone
Tablet - Narrow
Tablet - Wide
Desktop