MAC: Mines and Communities

A media release and a letter from communities around the state of NSW in Australia who are seeking

Published by MAC on 2004-11-15

A media release and a letter from communities around the state of NSW in Australia who are seeking a phase out of the coal industry in the state, and no new coal mines.

Climate Change: Mining Communities Demand a Shift from Coal Dependency

Media Brief: Friends of the Earth International / Mineral Policy Institute

Monday 15 November 2004

‘The Hidden Costs of Coal Exposed in Australia’

Representatives from New South Wales communities impacted by coalmines are gathered in protest outside a meeting of the International Climate Change Task Force in Sydney today to highlight the hidden costs of coal production and call for no new coal mines in the State. While the International Climate Change Task Force is meeting in Sydney this week to solve the problems of global warming, the coal industry in New South Wales continues to expand at the fastest rate in history.

Despite the State Premier, Bob Carr, sitting on the Climate Change Task Force, New South Wales continues to entrench itself as one of the world’s largest exporter of coal. Protesters including regional, national and international community and environmental groups are angry over the hypocrisy and want to see commitments of governments to address climate change translated into meaningful policies. The groups gathered outside the meeting gave a letter to the task force asking them to reconsider and revoke Bob Carr’s membership until he shows commitment to the issue and halts the current rapid expansion of the coal industry in his State.

“Not only is coal the highest source of greenhouse gas emissions, its extraction is causing major and irreversible environmental damage. Our government continues to entrench an industry that is destroying opportunities that exist for healthy sustainable economies here and exporting climate change to other nations,” stated Bev Smiles, resident of the Hunter Valley coalfields in NSW.

Catherine Pearce, International Climate Campaigner with Friends of the Earth International said “Governments around the world have accepted that climate change is one of the biggest issues facing the planet today, but when it comes to meeting the challenge, they are failing. It appears to be ‘big business’ as usual, with the fossil fuel industry the only winner. As one of the world's top carbon dioxide producers on a per-capita basis, Australia needs to do it’s bit on climate change, starting now.”

“Rather than supporting new coal fired power stations, the expansion of coal mining and thus the entrenchment of the coal industry, we need to shift our focus to facilitating transitions from dinosaur industries such as ‘coal’ to sustainable energy sources. Clean energy options can provide jobs without destroying regional life support systems. If we want to get serious about addressing climate change then there must be no new coal mines or power stations in NSW,” stated Bev Smiles.

Coal impacted communities in NSW are not alone. Communities in coal extracting nations across the globe are paying the hidden costs of coal through damage to rivers and water supply, loss of biodiversity and major subsidence, poor air quality, noise, vibration, loss of amenity. Workers in the coal industry have some of the highest fatality rates of any professions. Coal is considered a cheap fuel without accounting for local impacts or the long-term impacts of global warming, damage to communities, rivers, landscapes, air quality and biodiversity.

“The hidden costs of coal stretch from the communities where it is extracted to those communities and countries who will disproportionately suffer the earth changing impacts of climate change. If we integrate the hidden costs of these operations into the industry, it is clearly not only unsustainable but uneconomical.“ stated Techa Beaumont of MPI.

“The goals of the International Climate Change Task Force will be very difficult to achieve while ever the coal industry is allowed to expand and entrench itself in the global economy of the future. It is also essential that we plan a just transition out of coal for coal dependent communities such as those in the Hunter Valley, ” stated Stephanie Long, Climate Justice Campaigner for Friends of the Earth Australia.


Bev Smiles: + 61 (0)405 266 614
Catherine Pearce, Friends of the Earth International +44 (0)7811 283 641
Techa Beaumont, Mineral Policy Institute, Australia: +61 (0)409 318 406
Stephanie Long, Friend of the Earth Australia: + 61 (0)414 136 461

Friends of the Earth International is the largest grassroots environmental network in the world with more than one million members in over 70 countries.

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