Masked protest against ‘secrecy’ on Wollongong Coal order

A group of Illawarra environmentalists, including Greens councillors Mithra Cox and Cath Blakey, wore disguises on Friday as they staged a protest in slow motion over Wollongong Coal’s Russell Vale slag heap. The protest was staged to coincide with Wollongong Coal’s annual general meeting which was held on Friday in Towradgi. Illawarra Residents for Responsible Mining (IRRM) said Wollongong City Council (WCC) had known for years about the unlawful 200,000 tonne stockpile, which is partly on public land, but had been too slow to act.

Read the article by Ben Langford in The Illawarra Mercury, 24 August 2018

Masked protest against ‘secrecy’ on Wollongong Coal order

HIDDEN DETAILS: Environmentalists - including Councillor Mithra Cox - wore 'secret' disguises to protest the lack of information about Wollongong Coal's stockpile.
HIDDEN DETAILS: Environmentalists - including Councillor Mithra Cox - wore 'secret' disguises to protest the lack of information about Wollongong Coal's stockpile.

A group of Illawarra environmentalists wore disguises on Friday as they staged a protest in slow motion over Wollongong Coal’s Russell Vale slag heap.

The protest was staged to coincide with Wollongong Coal’s annual general meeting which was held on Friday in Towradgi.

And the Department of Planning and Environment (DPE) had not made public its recent order that the miner remove the stockpile, IRRM’s Kaye Osborn said.

“The Department has been neglecting its responsibility to ensure compliance at the Russell Vale mine for years,” she said.

“The department has abandoned transparency and accountability at Russell Vale by refusing to make the order to remove the stockpile on the slag heap public. 

“DPE has such a poor record of monitoring and enforcing compliance at Russell Vale. It is regularly left up to community members to lobby DPE to take action on non-compliance.”

But a DPE spokesman said the order could be sought under Freedom of Information rules. He said the miner had been given a 12-month deadline to remove the slag heap.

A council spokesman said WCC would oversee the remediation plan once the coal was removed – and referred questions about the timeline to the department.

“Wollongong City Council will provide overview and regulation of the final landform design following the removal of the coal material,” he said.

“Council will also oversee the implementation plan for the remediation of the stockpile site.”

Ms Osborn said the issue had dragged on for too many years.

“Wollongong City Council [has] been shirking its responsibility to put an end date on the final remediation of the slag heap, and the return of the portion of the slag heap land that is owned by council for the benefit of council and its ratepayers,” she said.

“We have been campaigning for years for this enormous pile of waste coal to be removed. It’s unlawful and poses many risks to our community.”