MAC: Mines and Communities

Two arrested over anti-coal mining project

Published by MAC on 2007-04-29

Two arrested over anti-coal mining project


29th April 2007

Police are calling an anti-coal mining protest in Christchurch today, in which two men were arrested, "irresponsible".

Two protesters from environmental group Save Happy Valley chained themselves to a railway track near Christchurch about midday, while another 20 surrounded a stopped coal train.

Activists Simon Riddel and Gregory Curline said they locked themselves to the track to draw attention to Solid Energy's opencast coal mining operations.

Protesters also hung a 22-metre banner, "Solid Energy: Govt Sponsored Climate Chaos", along two coal wagons.

Inspector Rick Jury of the Christchurch police said two men aged 26 and 35 were arrested for interfering with railway lines.

They will appear in Christchurch District Court on May 3.

The group's actions were irresponsible, Mr Jury said.

"The premeditated protest took considerable time and resources (which) could have been used attending genuine emergencies."

Spokesman for railways operator Ontrack Kevin Ramshaw said the protesters were freed from the tracks by the fire service.

"They certainly planned it very carefully; they put some concrete in the base of the track so they could chain themselves to the track very effectively. It wasn't an easy job cutting them out," Mr Ramshaw told NZPA.

He said the railway lines belonged to the nation and shouldn't be targeted by activists. "It's disappointing that people should use them for a protest furthering a cause. People are entitled to advance a cause and have their own ideas but to use the railway tracks to advance that cause - from our point of view that seems wrong."

Ontrack had successfully sought costs from protest groups before, but hadn't decided whether they would seek reimbursement from Save Happy Valley over today's protest.

"They inconvenience others and put lives at risk, from our point of view that's unfortunate," Mr Ramshaw said.

Save Happy Valley spokesman Graham Jury (no relation) said a third person, Anna-Claire Hunter, was also arrested "for providing the two (protesters chained to the track) with drinking water".

Mr Jury said Save Happy Valley would continue to take direct action against coal mining until the practice was stopped.

"Despite predictions of climate change and its dire consequences, this state-owned enterprise continues to expand its production. It is time we tackled the root causes of climate change, such as the fossil fuel industry," he said.


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