Bulga is a little town in the Upper Hunter Valley, with a population of about 350 people. Together, this tiny town has taken on and won cases in the New South Wales Land & Environment Court and the New South Wales Supreme Court against mining giant Rio Tinto, owned by Allied Coal.
The town is completely surrounded by open-cut coal mines. The mines are worked 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Millions of tonnes of coal have been taken from this land, over 90% of it being used overseas. Million of tonnes of pure diesel spew into the air from the massive trucks working the land. The air is thick with sulphur and the entire town becomes covered in coal dust. There are serious health complaints by the residents and the noise from the trucks is like something you'd imagine would emanate from Hell.
Located in this area are two environmentally significant sites. The Warkworth Sands Woodland took 18,000 years to create. It is the last woodland of its kind in the world. There is less than 13% of it remaining due to destruction of it by Rio Tinto and other mining companies. The second site is Saddleback Ridge, the last line of protection for the tiny town of Bulga.
The environmental development approval for the mining lease stipulated that community consultation must always take place when the mine was to be expanded. Moreover, it stipulated that the 2 environmentally sensitive sites I mentioned above would remain protected.
Of course, this stipulation was not respected by the mining giant and they went ahead with their destructive plans to extend their mine, already 6 times the size of Sydney Harbour.
So the little town of Bulga took the giant coal mining company to the Land & Environment Court, where they won. Not happy with the result, Rio Tinto appealed the decision to the Supreme Court. The New South Wales Government took the appalling step of joining Rio Tinto in suing the town of Bulga. Imagine that: a government turning against its own citizens, to side with a foreign-owned multinational mining company.
Yet again, the Town of Bulga won in the Supreme Court. Not happy with the decision, the New South Wales Government amended the law relating to mining leases, where community consultation has been completely deleted and commercial considerations must always trump environmental and other considerations.
The stupidity is that the commercial benefits for Australia are negligible. The mine employs only 3 people from the town of Bulga. The mining company pays virtually no tax (nil for the past 4 years) and the royalties from all mining leases in the State are less than the State earns from parking fines.
This change in legislation was made in late 2013 by an Energy Minister who has since resigned due to allegations and evidence of corruption, as has our Premier, the Minister for Police and several back-benchers. Despite the fact of corruption, there is no legislative facility to roll-back this legislation or stop the expansion of the mine. The people of Bulga fight on, but the future looks very dim for this tiny town who just refuses to disappear.
PS: I camped out overnight in a field 20 kilometres from the mine. The taste of sulphur was unavoidable and when I packed up my tent the next morning, had to scrape a 5mm film of coal dust off my tent.
In my WS is an aerial view of the mine and a photo of my fellow protesters.
Critiques | Translate
Sonata11 (33526) 2014-07-12 9:34
I like POV of this composition wonderfully performed. Greta management of colors, sharpness, clarity,lighting like always perfectly well done. Beautiful photo job.
Best regards and have a great WE, Barbara
lousat (81017) 2014-07-12 16:00
Ciao Lisa,ottimo lavoro ancora una volta che ci mostra un nuovo disastro provocato dall'uomo,la prima foto del WS è emblematica,il paesaggio è stato completamente sconvolto...ancora una volta i soldi hanno vinto di fronte alla natura,purtroppo.Buona Domenica,Luciano
tyro (21580) 2014-07-12 16:06
Ciao cara Lisa,
First of all, this is an excellent photograph with lovely light and excellent true colours and good composition and it's one which also shows the horror of desolation and destruction of the landscape brought about by the large digging and cutting machines which we see on the right.
Yes, photographically excellent, but your posting has much more importance than simply the showing of a photograph, albeit a very good one. Your note outlines a much more sinister series of events and points to the corruption, deceit, greed and malpractice of governments and huge corporations.
Quite how the residents of the little town of Bulga manage both to survive and maintain their obvious mettle is quite remarkable and I can only hope that the sustained efforts of protesters and some people with some common sense will eventually win the day and bring this wholesale destruction of the environment to an end.
Although the problem is on a much lesser scale than this, there have been protests and petitions from people (including myself) about a proposed huge sand quarry to be commenced right next to the World Heritage Site of New Lanark (I've posted quite a few photos here of that village which was conceived and developed by Robert Owen in the early 19th Century) yet, despite all protests and many very wise words of advice from experts, both the local council and the Scottish government (Scottish Nationalists) have turned a blind eye and it appears that the project will go ahead. Even warnings from UNESCO that New Lanark might well lose its World Heritage status appear to have been to no avail in reversing the decision.
An excellent posting and a perfect one for TE. Long live Bulga and its stalwart residents.
SnapRJW (31625) 2014-07-13 1:35
Hello Lisa - I think what interests me most about your note is the fact that Australia has some of the most delicate and unique ecosystems in the world and yet the powers that be are quite happy to sell their souls to the god Mammon. We all understand the need for energy but there has to be a balanced approach to accessing it. It seems as if Namibia could teach Australia something about wise management of resources; GUIDE TO THE ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT ACT
A shameful situation.
marabu61 (9207) 2014-07-13 3:45
What a shame really, the inhabitants of Bulga really are not to be envied. Another sad example of the greed of mankind and how our elected leaders are governed by the big money really. How on earth can we destroy a rare and delicate micro environment in this way just for a few bucks. Honestly the older I get, the more I loose hope in our species to change anything for the better before it is to late. That huge mine is an eyesore indeed as your arial view in the workshop shows impressively.
I wish the inhabitants of Bulga a strong backbone and lots of courage to go on with their struggle.
As John said it so well, the perfect TE entry, making us aware of the unpleasant sides of commerce and that is what it should really be all about.
have a great sunday
snunney (88281) 2014-07-13 3:59
A great picture depicting an appalling situation. RTZ have never had a good business reputation when it comes to business dealings and the environment.
Noel_Byrne (26549) 2014-07-13 5:41
What a sorry tale this is, nothing new to learn of corruption and people who give not a damn about others or this fragile world, but it's on reading a succinct and pointed note like yours that brings us closer to these situations and makes us yearn to be able to help. Your note is excellent Lisa, but at the me time utterly disgusting. Those responsible for this level of corruption should be stripped of all their I'll gains and forced to work repairing the land.
Of cour, being Irish, I am no stranger to these levels of corruption but the one difference that shines for me is how you stand up against this and fight the good fight. Here in ireland, we face issues on wind farms, fracking, huge pylons going through the most beautiful landscapes because the companies say its too expensive to go underground and much more, but yet still there is little protests. But to make you laugh, yesterday in Dublin there was a protest in Dublin at the Garth Brooks concert being cancelled!! I'm not sure if that story is being reported your side of the world, but it make me think what a weird world we love in.
Your photo is a harsh industrial scene, devoid of any natural beauty and perfectly suit to your poignant note. Thanks for sharing, and the best of luck with the fight.
Best wishes from the soggy rock.
drweizy (528) 2014-07-13 7:27
This involves complex economic and environmental issues. In China, the small town should usually be moved before mining, unless it is particularly important, and the inhabitants can get economic compensation.
Good shot and good note. regards
ktanska (25505) 2014-07-13 8:29
Quite descriptive picture showing all that black coal field that is very easy believe creating dust clouds.
Sad story that usually happens in third world countries. Export the benefits and leave the destroyed environment for the locals. And the same goes with corrupted politicians.
carlo62 (37171) 2014-07-13 16:08
proprio una settimana fa ho letto un articolo sul National Geographic sulle miniere di carbone, con tante foto, belle, ma raccapriccianti.
Proprio come le tue, quella del ws è incredibile.
Un altro tumore creato dall'uomo per far ammalare sempre di più la terra e tutti i suoi abitanti.
emka (84032) 2014-07-14 0:36
Good title. When somebody has a lot of power or money, what he likes most? More power and more money. And these greedy companies that with all their money can corrupt the government and do what they want, in spite they ruin environment for the next generations. But only their money is what counts. It happens everywhere. i admire the small population of Bulga against giants, and also you taking part in all these protests. Excellent photo but horrible what it is shown.
WArm regrads MAlgo
photoray (13182) 2014-07-14 13:01
Well done, your journalistic image of the coal operation and its destruction of the land, plus your background narrative on the Bulga struggles against the Rio Tinto coal company.
I admire your steadfastness and bravery. Mega companies will usually resort to any tactic to prevent disruption to their operations.
And tougher when government instead of representing the people plays favorites with the Rich & Greedy.
Keep up the good works both artistic and journalistic,
fritzi007 (8110) 2014-07-14 15:22
an incredible photo, there probably will be no quality of life, no consideration for others, but very much profit, we make our planet earth broken
Many greetings from Austria
rogerl (1544) 2014-07-16 6:46
Lisa, I somehow assumed that the U.S. was the only country where corporate interests have usurped (or bought) governmental powers. Apparently, and sadly, I was wrong. The only way to fight this is to vote the bums out. Take a look at https://mayday.us/the-plan/ for an effort in the U.S. aimed at getting big money out of politics. Thanks for posting.