A PROTEST at the Boggabri Coal Mine yesterday started peacefully and ended peacefully, but the protesters say they’ll keep going back until their demands are met.
Almost 30 farmers and conservationists blocked the mine’s road until mid-afternoon and stopped at least two trucks from passing through. The protesters were calling for the Planning Assessement Commission to revisit its recommended approval of the open-cut coalmine’s expansion for a further 21 years, because they did not feel that due process was followed. Maules Creek Community Council spokesman Peter Watson said the terms of reference set by the Planning Minister required the Planning Assessment Commission to monitor the cumulative impacts of dust, noise, blasting and water impacts of the project, in conjunction with the other mines in the area, which was not done.
“All they’ve really done is suggest the mine goes ahead and those things are monitored,” Mr Watson said.
“So, as a community, we don’t believe this is the right approach and we don’t think the Planning Assessment Commission followed the terms of reference the minister set out in the first place.”
The Maules Creek Community Council said its calculations found cumulative dust from the two existing and one proposed mine in the Leard State Forest area could be up to 18,000 tonnes per year and affect about 67,000 hectares of land in the Narrabri shire. Protesters also want the mining to go underground, which they said would minimise the mine’s impacts.
During the protest, Boggabri Idemitsu (the owner of the mine) was asked to suspend its application for the expansion of the mine, request the Planning Assessment Commission revisit its assessment and investigate the cumulative impacts, and assess the option of underground mining with regards to the economic, environmental and community impacts. The protesters will also put their demands to the NSW government.
Boggabri Coal Mine manager Ken McLaren spoke to the protesters for close to an hour during the protest and said he was open to hearing their concerns, reading the submissions they had previously made and working towards a resolution. He said he was looking into further dust-suppression measures on Rangari Road and the mine site.
But such assurances were greeted with scepticism from the protestors, who said they’d heard it all before.
Mr McLaren returned to the protest site later in the afternoon and asked them to leave, which they said they would only do if the conditions they put forward were met. After leaving the site for the second time, he returned and said he did not have the authority to give those commitments.
Shortly after 3pm the police arrived and the protesters dispersed peacefully, but Mr Watson said they would continue protest activity until Boggabri Idemitsu took action on their requests.
The expansion of the mine is awaiting a decision, which could come within the month, from the Planning Assessment Commission.