The New South Wales (NSW) Minerals Council has welcomed proposals to toughen deterrents for protesters that break the law when protesting at mine and coalbed methane (CBM: called coal seam gas in Australia) sites in the state.
A bill introduced to Parliament this week by the NSW government proposes search and seizure powers for police and an increase to the fine for trespass to AUS$5500. Energy Minister, Anthony Roberts, said the aim was to prevent illegal and unsafe activity, particularly the practice of using ‘lock-on’ devices, which protesters use to chain themselves to heavy equipment.
According to Roberts, the bill “improves the ability of the police to search and seize objects before they are used to interfere with or cause damage to a business and most importantly help minimize the likelihood of situations where people’s lives, includes the rescuers, are placed at risk.”
Calling the government’s proposals “measured and responsible”, NSW Minerals Council CEO, Stephen Galilee, said the measures would be welcomed by mining workers.
“Everyone has the right to protest within the law. However in recent years we’ve seen an escalation of protests to include illegal and unsafe activities that are putting people at risk of serious injury or worse,” Galilee said in a statement. “Protesters have regularly trespassed onto mine sites, heavy equipment has been interfered with, access gates have been sabotaged or blocked, explosive charges have been tampered with, and in one case a security vehicle was rammed.”
Such activities put protesters, mine workers and emergency services personnel at risk, concluded Galilee, saying the NSE Minerals Council hoped parliament would support the proposals.
Greens Mining Spokesperson, Jeremy Buckingham, criticised the proposals, however, saying that there had been “no incident that should warrant these laws.”
“This is about [Queensland Premier] Mike Baird and the Minister doing the bidding of their mining mates,” Buckingham said.
Edited by Jonathan Rowland.