Protesters shut down coal export port in Australia

08:34, September 27, 2010      

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Australian climate change activists on Sunday paralyzed the world's largest coal exporting port for five hours by breaking into the site and chaining themselves to machinery.

Police have arrested more than 40 environmental activists who broke into several coal terminals at the Port of Newcastle in the New South Wales Hunter Valley of Australia.

The protesters, from environmental action group Rising Tide, sneaked in before dawn on Sunday and attached themselves to loaders in what they called "an emergency intervention".

"Operations were stopped from dawn through to mid-morning," a spokesman for the port told ABC News. "There was a total shutdown for a period of about five hours, [and] a disruption for a period of about eight hours."

According to ABC News, it took the Police Rescue Squad around 10 hours to remove all the activists from Newcastle's three coal terminals.

It would be several days before the cost of the disruption was known, the spokesman said.

Seven men and two women were charged with trespassing and will face court next month.

Police expect to fine another 32 people for the same offense, adding that seven men and two women had chained themselves to or suspended themselves from machinery, while another 32 activists stormed the Port Waratah Coal facility to occupy a coal stockpile.

"All nine protesters who were tied to the structures were eventually removed by officers from the Police Rescue Squad, arrested and taken to Newcastle Police Station," police told ABC News.

Rising Tide spokeswoman Annika Dean said that coal was Australia's number one contributor to climate change and the port was used to "export global warming to the world".

"Forty-five ordinary people, of all ages and all walks of life, have come together today to make a stand for the future of our planet," Dean said.

"We were compelled to take these actions because our political leaders are failing to take any action at all."

The Port Waratah facility is jointly-owned by global mining giants Rio Tinto and Xstrata, both of which run extensive coal mining operations in the nearby mineral-rich Hunter region.

About 30 mines supply the facility, which is the world's largest coal export port with a capacity of 113 million tons a year. Hundreds of ships leave there each year for Japan, Korea, Taiwan, China and India.

Australia is the world's number one exporter of coal, last year accounting for a 28 percent share of the global market.

Source: Xinhua


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