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Inside The Campaign To Stop Australia's Largest Coal Mine

The Carmichael coal mine will be one of the largest in the world. Scientists say it will be a disaster for the Great Barrier Reef and a catastrophe for humanity.

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The Galilee Blockade, a group fighting the proposed construction of Australia's largest coal mine – in Queensland's Galilee Basin – is encouraging workers to go undercover at businesses associated with the project so they can provide information to activists.

Nathan Paull / AAPIMAGE

If constructed, the Carmichael coal mine will be the largest in the southern hemisphere, producing 60 million tonnes of coal a year, and will significantly contribute to Australia's greenhouse gas emissions. Scientists say it would be a disaster for the already-fragile Great Barrier Reef.

The Blockade is in the early stages of forming a "direct action" strategy to target the mine's operator, Adani, and any businesses associated with the project.

Adani has claimed the mine, which has the backing of the Queensland and federal governments, would create up to 10,000 jobs, but the company's own consultant told the Brisbane Land Court in 2015 that the mine will only directly employ 1,464 people.

The Galilee Blockade's spokesman, Ben Pennings, told BuzzFeed News that "people of conscience" can contact the Blockade to provide any information that might be useful in delaying or stopping the construction of the mine and its associated infrastructure, which will includes a rail line, an airport, and a workers' village.

"There may be people who are green-leaning and who are working with Adani and might want to tell environmental groups and unions some of the things that [Adani is] up to that need to be stopped," Pennings said. "The real big message from us is, if you’re in bed with Adani, you’re a target."

The Blockade will help people who want to work at Adani to get the Standard 11 mining safety qualification and tailor their résumé for working in the mining industry.

The Alpha mine test pit in the Galilee basin.

The Alpha mine test pit in the Galilee basin.

“If Adani actually ever employs Australians we’ll have people ready to apply who care more about the reef and tourism jobs than extra profit for multibillionaire [Adani owner] Gautam Adani," Pennings said.

“If [its] Galilee Basin mega-mine ever gets financed, we will ask all Adani employees to act according to their conscience. This could include blowing the whistle on corrupt practices, unsafe workplaces, or providing information to environment groups wanting to protect the reef and Great Artesian Basin.”

BuzzFeed News understands that several activist groups including veterans of the Leard and Jabiluka blockades, lawyers, and IT specialists met in Sydney over the weekend to talk strategy.

Pennings, a veteran environmental activist and former Greens candidate for Brisbane lord mayor, is keen to distance the Australian movement from the recently successful Standing Rock protest in the United States.

Pennings, in his days as a "radical", and as a candidate for Brisbane lord mayor.
Katie Bennett / Supplied

Pennings, in his days as a "radical", and as a candidate for Brisbane lord mayor.

"The Galilee blockade is different than most blockades in that it’s very decentralised," Pennings said. "It means that people in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane, and regional centres can do direct action where they live, rather than having to travel to a remote area."

He said if the mine proceeds it will push up global temperatures, leading to catastrophe.

"It’s large enough to be able to tip us over the edge," he warns. "[That] literally means hundreds of millions of deaths. Hundreds of millions of climate refugees. It’s insanity on an ecological scale, but also insanity on a human scale."

Pennings said the Blockade has already been contacted by people on the inside with some companies associated with Adani.

An example of a message sent to the blockade.

An example of a message sent to the blockade.

Pennings says the campaign is about targeting businesses, not mining company workers, who he says are often just hard workers trying to make a living.

He said: "There [are] people who work in the mining industry and associated infrastructure who aren’t bad people. ... They love our environmental heritage, they love the reef, they recognise that enough is enough and things have got to change."

Rob Stott is a news editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney.

Contact Rob Stott at

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