Wilpinjong coal mine arrest for Bathurst woman

BATHURST Community Climate Action Network (BCCAN) has pledged support for one of its members, Stephanie Luke, who was arrested last week during a protest against the expansion of the Wilpinjong coal mine.

Ms Luke, who was among a group of 30 people protesting outside the mine, was one of three arrested by police and charged with interfering with a mine, a new section of the NSW Crimes Act.

The law targets protester demonstrations and it carries a maximum penalty of seven years in jail.

BCCAN president Tracy Sorensen said it does not make economic or environmental sense to open new coal mines or extend existing ones.

“Stephanie has no prior convictions, but she was willing to risk severe penalties to make a stand for social justice and the environment,” she said.

“We are standing behind her.”

Ms Sorensen claims the mine, which is owned by Peabody Energy, is encroaching on the village of Wollar near Mudgee.

“Noise and dust from the mine has forced 90 per cent of residents of the village to leave,” she said.

“The State Government has admitted that recently-approved extensions to the mine will entirely destroy the village.”

At the protest, Ms Luke was holding a large banner saying “Enough is Enough” across the main access road into the mine.

“She was one of three who refused to move on when asked to do so by police. She was arrested along with Bev Smiles, convener of the Central West Environment Council (CWEC), and Bruce Hughes, a Wollar village resident,” Ms Sorensen said.

The three who were arrested following the protest will appear in Mudgee Local Court next month.