A school teacher faces a possible jail term after locking himself onto an excavator at a NSW mine.
A Queensland school teacher faces a possible jail term after chaining himself to an excavator and disrupting work at the NSW Maules Creek mine.
Simon Wells, 55, became the 159th person to be arrested this year at the Leard State Forest in the state’s north, following a series of protests aimed at halting development of three open-cut coal mines.
Mr Wells, from the Sunshine Coast, locked himself onto the excavator at Whitehaven Coal’s $767 million Maules Creek mine before dawn on Monday and unfurled a banner reading “coalruption”.
He was arrested several hours later and charged with entering inclosed land, remaining on inclosed land and interfering with a mine, the latter of which carries a maximum seven-year prison sentence.
Mr Wells was released on bail and is due to appear at Narrabri Local Court in a fortnight.
He said the development of the mines, which involve the clearance of wildlife habitats, was “damaging environmentally, economically and socially.”
“It became clear to me that it was time I did something concrete as a citizen and also as the parent of a teenager,” he told AAP.
“I’ve been involved in environmental activism for over 30 years and I decided I would finally take the step of doing some civil disobedience and risking arrest.”
Aside from the Whitehaven project, Japanese firm Idemitsu is developing the neighbouring Boggabri mine and Idemitsu and Whitehaven have a joint venture mine also nearby.
The Leard State Alliance is calling for a judicial inquiry into approval of the Maules Creek mine, which has been under development for five months.
The call for a judicial inquiry follows allegations at NSW’s Independent Commission Against Corruption on May 5 that two Aston Coal directors and their wives gave donations to the NSW National Party in 2011.
Aston Coal was a subsidiary of Nathan Tinkler’s Aston Resources, the company that initially developed Maules Creek mine, and the donations were allegedly not disclosed in a development application for the mine.
Aston Resources merged with Whitehaven Coal in 2012 and Mr Tinkler sold his stake in Whitehaven Coal in mid-2013.
A Whitehaven Coal spokesman strongly rejected the suggestion that the company had been implicated in any wrongdoing at the ICAC.
“Opponents of Maules Creek freely claim the moral high ground but shamelessly resort to lies and misrepresentation in pushing their radical agenda on the rest of us,” the spokesman said.