Police have arrested 109 climate activists who disrupted operations at the Port of Newcastle, the world’s largest coal export port, on Saturday and Sunday. The protesters, who were part of a group called Rising Tide, used kayaks, floats, and banners to block the shipping channel and prevent coal ships from entering or leaving the port. They demanded that the Australian government stop all new fossil fuel projects and take action on climate change.
The Port of Newcastle, located about 170 kilometers north of Sydney, exports more than 150 million tonnes of coal each year, mostly to Asia. According to Rising Tide, the blockade stopped over half a million tonnes of coal from leaving the country, equivalent to 1.2 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions.
The protest was part of a 30-hour blockade that started at 10 a.m. on Saturday and ended at 4 p.m. on Sunday. The protesters took turns paddling out into the water and forming a human chain across the shipping lane. Some of them also climbed onto a coal train and shovelled coal onto the tracks.
The protest drew support from various groups and individuals, including flood and bushfire victims, coal miners, students, and environmentalists. They said they were frustrated by the lack of climate action from the federal government, which has been criticized for its weak emissions reduction targets and its support for the fossil fuel industry.
The NSW Minerals Council, which represents the state’s mining sector, condemned the protest as illegal and irresponsible. It said coal exports contribute billions of dollars to the economy and support thousands of jobs in the region. It also said coal is an essential source of energy for many countries, especially in Asia, and that Australia has some of the highest environmental standards in the world. It urged the protesters to respect the law and the rights of other people.