Coal Mine Fighter
Kokoda veteran, Bill Ryan may be 92 years old but he’s not letting that get in the way of standing up to stop a destructive coal mine. Watch this video to hear first hand from Bill why he’s doing it and how you can help: https://www.getup.org.au/protect-maules-creek
Two years ago, the small farming community of Maules Creek was transformed forever when fossil fuel giant, Whitehaven Coal, discovered dirty black coal deposits in the region.
Once an area of rolling paddocks and ancient forests, Maules Creek is now home to the biggest coal mine under construction in Australia. The local community, faced with a future of toxic dust, trucking highways and environmental degradation, has had little choice but to band together to protect their land, their community and their livelihoods.
This unlikely group of activists are already a force to be reckoned with. In mid-June, the likes of 92 year old Kokoda veteran, Bill Ryan and local farmer, Cliff Wallace, forced Whitehaven to “voluntarily” cease forest clearing for the rest of winter. But with springtime fast approaching, Whitehaven are getting ready to roll in the bulldozers and open the pit.
The community have got the people power they need to stop Whitehaven’s machines, but it takes more than a slingshot for David to take on Goliath. That’s where we come in. Our movement has the resources to help this people-powered campaign afford the camp infrastructure, food, solar panels, toilet maintenance and legal support they need to keep their community, and their land, fossil-free.
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen this type of people power prevail. This past May, just a couple of hours east, another farming community stood up to coal seam gas giant, Metgasco, to keep their farms gas field-free. The awe-inspiring Bentley Blockade led directly to the NSW government’s decision to suspend Metgasco’s gas exploration licence — demonstrating that regional communities can win out against huge corporations.
Now it’s happening again, with farmers, war veterans and local business-owners standing together to defend Maules Creek. And it’s not hard to understand why when you consider that Whitehaven’s open pit coal mine will:
- Ruin local farms and drain the water table. Dangerous dust, noise, traffic and, most importantly, falling water tables will have huge impacts on the local area and nearby residents. The area is a crucial food bowl, it’s critical we ensure it remains clean and functional for future generations.
- Demolish ancient forests and risk threatened species. The Leard State Forest, the exact location of the coal pit, is home to 396 native species and 2,153ha of critically endangered Box-Gum Woodland — the most extensive remaining area in Australia1.
- Disrespect Gomeroi land and culture. The mine site is also of significant cultural importance with numerous Indigenous artefacts and burial grounds. When the Gomeroi people demanded a stop-work order to try protect these sites, they were blatantly ignored. “All we ask as Aboriginal people is that they do the right thing and respect our culture and heritage,” said Traditional owner Stephen Talbott2.
- Fuel the climate crisis. It has been estimated that the mine will produce greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to about 30 million tonnes of CO2 per year — roughly equivalent to the entire fossil fuel emissions of New Zealand3.
This mine must be stopped in its tracks in order to avoid these terrible outcomes. Fortunately for all of us, there’s already a powerful community ready – and based on the huge win in Bentley, we know they can win. However in the words of Cliff, “the day to day running of it is expensive, we rely on donations to keep it going”, and the current trickle of resources is set to fall well short of their budget for the rest of the year.
If anyone can take on a multi-million dollar corporation it’s these farmers — all they need is our help. Click here to chip in and support these farmers with the financial and legal support they need
Local resident Jenny puts it best: “This is the best farming country in Australia, this coal mine is a violation of all that the farmers hold dear here”. Together we can help the farmers of Northern NSW do what they do best — prove that people, when united, are more powerful than profits.
For their farms, our food and everyone’s future,
Michael, for the GetUp team
PS — A campaign that started with a handful of locals in a farm shed is attracting the attention of some of the most powerful environmental organisations in the country. We’re working closely with this growing alliance to help boost this strategic campaign. The number of groups involved is far too long to list here, so to find out more about the Maules Creek Alliance and how you can support them visit: https://www.getup.org.au/protect-maules-creek
 “Maules Creek Environmental Assessment”, World Heritage Committee
 “Minister ‘failed to act’ on Maules Creek mine stop-work order”, Sydney Morning Herald, January 17 2014
 “Maules Creek proposed coal mine: greenhouse gas emissions”, Dr Ian Lowe