Ben Cubby, Environment Reporter, smh
July 5, 2008
AFTER going to work at a Hunter Valley coalmine for 20 years, Graham Brown went on holiday to Patagonia, where he saw a melting glacier.
"I was talking to a bloke there, a salmon farmer," Mr Brown said. "He found out what I did for a living and he said to me, 'Where is your heart? Your coal is killing us.'
"I was standing there with a person from the other side of the world and he was talking about the coal we're digging up over here," he said. "There's some pretty big ethical questions that I, as a miner, had to face up to."
Mr Brown returned a changed man, albeit one who still worked at the coalface of climate change.
After some thought, he retired from the mines last year and is now a deeply committed environmental activist.
Aged 56, he was arrested for the first time on Thursday when Greenpeace protesters temporarily shut down the coal-fired Eraring Power Station on the Central Coast.
At his side was Peter Kennedy, a fourth-generation Newcastle miner who has also come to believe his industry is part of the climate change problem.
"It's very hard to break the bond between Newcastle and coalmines but, as climate change is slowly taking it's grip, that is what's going to happen," said Mr Kennedy.
Mr Kennedy had some ideas to add to the draft Garnaut climate change review released yesterday. "I'd like to see a $1 levy on each tonne of coal that goes out through the port," he said.
"The money can be put into renewable energy. The black coal industry generates revenue of about $23 billion a year, so I think we can afford it."
Newcastle's coal port ships more than 80 million tonnes of coal overseas a year, with plans to expand that to 140 million tonnes. The carbon emissions from Hunter Valley coal burned overseas almost equal the emissions from all sources in Australia.
The NSW Minerals Council said it was unfair to single out the mining industry. "Miners, like the rest of the community, are becoming increasingly aware of the serious issue of climate change and the need to take action," the council's director of external affairs, Lancia Jordana, said.
Mr Brown and Mr Kennedy are joining several hundred activists from all walks of life at a "camp for climate action" in Newcastle on Thursday. The group plans to block the Carrington rail line to the port, delaying a coal shipment in a symbolic act they say will highlight the state's contribution to global warming.