Ten people have been arrested after climate activists locked themselves in vehicles, blocking access to a Canterbury coal mine.
More than 30 Extinction Rebellion activists locked themselves in the vehicles at 4.30am on Monday, blocking the access road to the Bathurst Resources’ Canterbury coal mine.
Other activists were also believed to have locked themselves inside diggers on the site, which is in the Malvern Hills, about 20 kilometres west of Darfield.
Stuff understands at least 10 people have been arrested.
A police spokesperson would not confirm how many people had been arrested but said a “number of protesters” had been arrested after chaining themselves to machinery in the mine pit area.
“While police recognise the lawful right to protest, our priority is to ensure safety and uphold the law.
“In this instance, it is not safe for the protesters to be in this area.”
Police would remain at the site and respond appropriately to any issues that may arise, the spokesperson said.
All trucks to and from the site have been stopped, with workers told not to come to the mine.
The protest is in reaction to Bathurst Resources applying for consent from Environment Canterbury (ECan) and the Selwyn District Council to expand the mine and increase coal extraction, an Extinction Rebellion spokesperson said on Monday.
“To tackle the climate crisis we must stop burning coal,” member Josie Butler said.
“As a Māori wahine I’m here today to stand up for Papatūānuku (mother earth) and to protect our whenua (land) for future generations.”
Butler said the majority of coal from the mine was burned at Fonterra milk factories to dehydrate milk into milk powder.
“While Fonterra are burning coal to dry milk, they are burning the time we have to respond to the climate crisis.”
She said the group was calling for Bathurst and central Government to work together to decommission the coal mine while guaranteeing security and wellbeing for workers.
The open cast coal mine site is 52 hectares, of which 38ha is mined. Production at the site is currently 95,000 tonnes of coal per annum, which is sold for industrial and commercial use.
Spokeswoman Zoe Deans, who grew up on a farm 5kms from the mine, said protesters were prepared to be at the site for a number of days.
“It is cold but everyone’s in pretty good spirits, we’re well-prepared, we’ve got lots of warm blankets and that sort of thing,” she said.
“As the climate crisis becomes more apparent, it’s really clear we need to take that message directly to the people responsible.”
The group was calling for Bathurst to withdraw its application to expand the site.
“We’re here to shut down Bathurst’s coal mine.
“Coal is a climate killer, we have seen the impact of the climate emergency. California’s ablaze, Australia last summer. It’s frankly terrifying.
“We know that we can’t keep burning coal if we want to have a safe future.”
Ciara Foley, 16, from Lyttelton, is the youngest protester at the site.
The Christchurch student said she was not concerned about being arrested.
“I think my future outweighs a trespass law,” she said.
“Actions like this are really important, it takes it right back to the source.
“We can’t afford to be expanding coal mines in a climate emergency, we need to be shutting them down and providing an alternative for the workers.
“Time is not a luxury we have in the climate emergency, we have to act now.”
Coal Action Network Aotearoa spokeswoman Cindy Baxter said the group was standing in “solidarity” with the Extinction Rebellion protesters.
“Fonterra should be ashamed that its failure to shift off coal is the reason Bathurst wants to expand this mine,” she said.
“The developed world must stop using coal by 2030 if we want to keep global warming to 1.5C under the Paris Agreement, and this should include Fonterra and the rest of the dairy industry.”
Baxter said not only should the mine extension not go ahead, but ECan should shut it down altogether because of “ongoing and extensive breaches of its consents”.