Photographer's Note

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.

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Additional Photos by Lisa DP (delpeoples) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 5609 W: 342 N: 12455] (60342)
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