Residents of Bulga in the Hunter Valley have been overwhelmed with support for their campaign to save their town from Rio Tinto's proposed Warkworth coal mine expansion, with over two thousand people in four days pledging to help residents defend the town from the mine.
Bulga residents, Wonnarua traditional custodians, and local businesses launched The Bulga Declaration last week, in response to a NSW Planning Assessment Commission review of Rio's project which found it was “capable of being approved”, despite having been knocked back twice already in court. The Commission found that changes to mining regulations implemented by the NSW Government in response to the legal victories by Bulga residents have paved the way for approval of the controversial project.
The Declaration pledges to use “all peaceful means” to stop the mine going ahead. Within 24 hours of its launch the Declaration had been signed by over 1000 NSW residents, and within four days it had passed 2000 pledges.
John Krey, of Bulga Milbrodale Progress Association said: “With our government working hand in glove with Rio Tinto to force this mine on our community, it's great to know that we have such strong support from people around NSW.
“It's abundantly clear that mining regulations in NSW have been designed to give coal companies every approval they ask for. If the system ever fails to deliver an approval, the rules are changed in favour of mining companies like Rio Tinto.
“We launched our Bulga Declaration because we realised that the NSW Government is not on our side. Our government is working with Rio Tinto to destroy our town, and this is our only hope for survival. We have drawn a line in the sand, and called on our supporters around the Hunter and NSW to help us save our community.
“We've been overwhelmed with support. Thousands of people around NSW have pledged to join with Bulga residents, Wonnarua traditional custodians, and local businesses, and fight to save Bulga.
“After five years of struggle our community remains determined to stop Rio's mine expansion. Our survival depends on it. With such strong support from around NSW, we know that we can win.”
Lock The Gate's Regional Coordinator for the Hunter, Steve Phillips, said: “Residents across NSW are sick of the power of the mining lobby and state governments kowtowing to it. We are still waiting for the Coalition to deliver on its mining promises from the last election, and when it comes to coal the silence from Labor is deafening.“
With the completion last week of the Planning Assessment Commission Review of the Warkworth expansion project, it is back in the hands of the NSW Department of Planning and Environment. The Department – which is known to have frequent closed-door meetings with Rio Tinto to facilitate approval – will now complete its second review of the project. After that, final determination will rest with a new incarnation of the Planning Assessment Commission.
While the previous approval for the Warkworth mine expansion was overturned in the NSW Land and Environment Court – a decision that was upheld on appeal to the Supreme Court – the state government has removed that legal option for the new assessment process.