People unite in concern over forest clearing



Photos available here


MAULES CREEK and WILLOW TREE, 27 FEB 2016: Today the rail line for coal in north west NSW has again been shut down by activists concerned over Whitehaven’s forest clearing. A bulldozer has also been halted in the Leard Forest forest by 2 women, delaying clearing. These actions follow allegations that Whitehaven has cleared during extreme heat in breach of the conditions of their Biodiversity Management Plan (Media Release 26 Feb 2016).

Whitehaven are clearing the environmentally and culturally significant Leard State Forest, on Gomeroi/Gamilaraay Country, for the expansion of their controversial Maules Creek Mine. These actions prevent any coal reaching port from all mines north of Willow Tree, including the Maules Creek Mine, as well as delaying clearing of the forest.


“Whitehaven are clearing critical habitat for over 35 threatened and endangered species. When it is too hot animals hide in their hollows to conserve energy. Clearing during this time ensures that not only will these animal’s homes be destroyed, they will not have the opportunity to flee.” said Phil Spark, local ecologist and Leard Forest Alliance Spokesperson


Yesterday, the Environmental Defenders Office, on behalf of their client South East Forest Rescue (SEFR), wrote to Whitehaven Coal and Department of Planning calling for an immediate investigation of the alleged non-compliance and stricter measures to prevent Whitehaven coal ignoring the rules.


“There needs to be certainty in whether or not Whitehaven are complying to their BMP, we demand that there is an independent monitoring process, and that Whitehaven disclose their onsite readings.” said Mr. Spark


“Gamilaraay people are about stopping the clearing of the Leard Forest. First and foremost it’s about protecting the land, our connection to country, song, dance, story, knowledge and culture.” said Uncle Paul Spearim and Uncle Allan Talbot, Gamilaraay Nation


““We are a few of many concerned about the mining expansion on Gamilaraay/Gomeroi country, and the impacts this will have on our last remaining forests and climate. This affects us all, we will do all that it takes until our voices are heard” said Annette Schneider, Sarah Sargan who are locked on a bulldozers in the forest and Emil Dacy-Cole, who scaled and stopped the locomotive essential in hauling coal to the Port of Newcastle.


“This forest should have never been cleared, for ecological and cultural reasons. It adds insult to injury that Whitehaven are not even adhering to the incredibly weak conditions of their Biodiversity Management Plan. We are united in opposition and demand answers” said Meret MacDonald, Front Line Action on Coal spokesperson


The Leard State Forest contains Box Gum Woodland a Critically Endangered Ecological Community of which there is less than 0.1% left globally.


Today, 3 people have been arrested and taken into custody stopping Whitehaven coal’s operations. Their peaceful actions were to draw attention to the clearing of the critically endangered Leard State Forest on Gomeroi country, and to the allegations of illegal non-compliance with the Biodiversity Management Plan.

Citizen Scientists have recorded temperatures of 38C in the Leard Forest today. These exceeds the conditions of the Biodiversity Management Plan. Footage is available of them clearing the forest this morning.


-Emil Dacy-Cole 21 stopped the coal train at Willow Tree.This actions prevent any coal reaching port from all mines north of Willow Tree. Including 5 Whitehaven Mines and Idemitsu’s Boggabri Coal Mine, also clearing the forest.
He was locked on for 4 hours until Police Search and Rescue removed him and he was taken to Muswellbrook into custody. He is now out of custody.

-Sarah Sargan 24, Child-care worker, and Annette Scneider 55, Farmer and Mother,  halted a bulldozer clearing the Leard Forest. This delayed clearing operations. They were locked on for over 5hours. They have just been released from Narrabri Police Custody.


Annette Schneider, 55, Farmer and Mother:
Update 27/02/2016

Locked on for over 5 hours stopping a Whitehaven bulldozer in the Leard State Forest. Currently in Narrabri Police Station. For updates @flaccoal #LeardBlockade

I’m a 55 year old farmer and mother. I often have difficulty concentrating on everyday life and local problems because the science I have read has made me aware of what a mess we have made of the planet with coal based industry. I get depressed at the thought that my children may never reach my own age because of the effect of climate change. The cure for depression is action.

The science is in and there is no doubt that if we don’t stop expanding the coal industry we will destroy all complex life on Earth. My current comfort is not worth destroying the future of all I love. I am fighting the corruption of Whitehaven Coal because they are killing the forests and oceans. They are destroying our food water and the air we breathe.

Annette Schneider was locked on to a bulldozer today for over 5 hours in the Leard State Forest. She has now been arrested and is in Police custody.

Sara Sargan, 24, Childcare worker:
Update 27/02/2016

“The forest they are clearing is critically endangered, and it is madness that it is being destroyed. Numerous Gamilaraay sacred sites have been destroyed, continuing the dispossession of the traditional custodians of this land.

The forest contains Box Gum Woodland a Critically Endangered Ecological Community of which there is less than 0.1% left globally and 34 threatened species.

As Whitehaven clears the forest, the habitat for these species is destroyed. Clearing at these temperatures means that the animals will not be able to flee and will perish.

I am dressed as a gecko that dies when the forest dies.”



Emil (Mils) Dacy-Cole, 21, homemaker
Update 27/02/2016

Today, Mils locked on to a coal train locomotive at Willow Tree stopping the transport of coal from mines in the Namoi Valley to Newcastle Coal Port.  Mils delayed the coal trains for over 4 hours, before being removed and arrested by Police, they have now been released.

They acted in solidarity with the Gamilaraay people who said that our future lies in those of us from different backgrounds, coming together in spirit to work and live as one.

Mils believes that the situation of climate change had made the need for direct action urgent.

“There are those who profit on the destruction of our future, not only of my future, but of those to come. I am 21 years old and I know the devastation of this planet in a changing climate is only going to escalate.

By taking action, I am investing in my future”


Further Information:

Phil Spark

Leard Forest Alliance Spokesperson

0427 642 245

Meret MacDonald
Front Line Action on Coal Spokesperson
0402 017 027
Paul Spearim
Gamilaraay Nation
0416 069 788

Twitter updates @FLACCoal and #LeardBlockade