Former Wallabies captain David Pocock was arrested and charged on Sunday after chaining himself to a digger in protest against Whitehaven Coal’s Maules Creek coal mine, just north of Gunnedah in New South Wales.
Pocock joined a blockade of 30 protesters calling for a halt on works at the site, demanding an inquiry into how the local and federal governments approved the project.
Nine were charged, with seven, six men and a woman, locking themselves to the excavators at the site around 5.30am.
Around 3.30pm Pocock and farmer and protest organiser Rick Laird released themselves and taken into custody by Narrabri police.
The seven were charged with illegally entering enclosed land, remaining without lawful excuse and hindering mining equipment.
They have been granted conditional bail and Pocock will appear in Narrabri Local Court on January 14.
On his Instagram account Pocock says:
“Locked on to a superdigger with Rick Laird, a fifth generation farmer in the Maules Creek area. Protesting Whitehaven’s new coal mine in Leard State Forest. The mine will be devastating for the forest, water table and local farming community. I don’t see how we can deal with climate change while opening new coal mines.”
On Twitter after being released by police, the Brumbies player said “Safely out on bail. Thanks for all the support. And thanks to #leardblockade for the work they’re doing to build a fairer future.
“I know some are very uncomfortable with breaking the law, but I feel that nonviolent direct action in the face of coal mines and climate change draws on a long history of civil disobedience being used to highlight injustice.”
Pocock’s wife, Emma, tweeted her “first ride in paddy wagon”.
It is a tool used world over: civil rights, women's rights, gay rights, human rights have all been won through the use of civil disobedience
— Emma Pocock (@emmaawpocock) November 30, 2014
— FrontLineonCoal (@FLACCoal) November 29, 2014
Whitehaven Coal says its Maules Creek project is one of the largest coal deposits in Australia and could operate for 30 years.
The controversial project, started in January and 68% complete in September, is expected to have its first coal due to leave in January.
The construction of the mine was reportedly $670 million, one of the biggest investments in regional NSW.
The Whitehaven Coal share price has dropped from $2.03 in late August to $1.30 on Thursday.
The 26-year-old Wallabies flanker has been absent from the side since a knee reconstruction in March, but has been outspoken on a range of issues.
Here is the photo from today’s protest.
Locked on to a superdigger with Rick Laird, a fifth generation farmer in the Maules Creek area. Protesting Whitehaven's new coal mine in Leard State Forest. The mine will be devastating for the forest, water table and local farming community. I don't see how we can deal with climate change while opening new coal mines… #leaveitintheground #communityfirst #savetheleard
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