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Photographer's Note

Leard Forest is located in far north-west New South Wales. It is an old growth forest and has been declared environmentally significant because of the ancient trees and endangered species that live there.

It has survived for thousands of years. That is, until 2010, when the state government granted a lease to Aston/Whitehaven Mines to explore it for coal. This licence was granted by the now disgraced former Energy & Resources Minister Chris Hartcher pursuant to corrupt bribes paid by Nathan Tinkler a majority shareholder of the coal mine company. Our Environmental Protection Agency reported that an open-cut coal mine in this location would have disastrous effects on the environment, would kill hundreds of thousands of protected species of animal, would irreversibly toxify our state's water supply and create a 330 square kilometre hole in the earth, where nothing would ever grow in the future. Billions of tonnes of diesel from the coal trucks would spew into the air, and billions of tonnes of coal dust would ruin the quality of life for the inhabitants and release 37 lethal types of toxins into the air.

Despite the bribes and despite findings of corruption in the Independent Commission Against Corruption, despite the resignation of the Minister for Energy Resources, the Minister for Police, the Premier of the State, the Deputy Premier and several other members of Parliament, the approval for the coal mine went ahead and the Forest continued to be bulldozed. It will be the largest coal mine in Australia.

Since the decision in 2011, local farmers, inhabitants, environmentalists, activists, Greenpeace, the Wilderness Society, 350.org.au, Frontline Action On Coal and religious leaders have participated in a Blockade of the Maules Creek Mine. It is the first and oldest blockade of a coal mine in this country. People of all walks of life have participated in the protest, some living in the Forest for extended periods of time, blocking the bulldozers, locking onto machines and engaging in peaceful, non-violent protest. A local farmer has lent the movement 3 of his fields and Camp Wando has been in existence since 2012.

Contrary to its promises in the EPA, the coal company have continued to log the Forest during winter, which is when all the endangered species are in hibernation (a state called "torper"). Last Friday, the Maules Creek Council filed an injunction to stop the bulldozers destroying the Forest.

Last Friday, I, with 100 others drove the 600 kilometres to Maules Creek to join the protest and attempt to delay the logging machines until a Court decision on the injunction was made. We camped out in sub-zero temperatures. Half of us went into the Forest, the other half blocked trucks entering and leaving the mine. The youngest protester was 4, the oldest was a 92 year old World War 2 veteran. We were students, doctors, lawyers, activists, religious leaders, public servants and trades people. It was inspirational seeing a 92 year old man refuse to move when a 130 kilo security guard demanded he move. When protesters planted sapling gumtrees in the path of the bulldozers. When even police were visibly moved at the sight of the desecration in the Forest. Many of us were arrested and charged, all of us delayed and searched, some of us harassed by police and the coal company's security guards.

Today, Thursday 12 June 2014, the Land & Environment Court ordered that the bulldozers stop. They are not allowed to re-commence until at least September.

We have had a victory, but the fight is not over. We will not stop.

MY WORKSHOPS SHOW SOME OF THE DAMAGE DONE TO LEARD FOREST FROM THE AIR, TAKEN BY A GREENPEACE GLIDER.

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Additional Photos by Lisa DP (delpeoples) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 5089 W: 367 N: 10656] (52445)
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