Staff and students on Eastern Avenue were today confronted by a dummy coalmine constructed by Greenpeace activists, highlighting the University’s approximate $1 million stake in Whitehaven Coal Ltd, the company behind a controversial new mine at Maules Creek.
Whitehaven has been accused of bulldozing Indigenous heritage sites and unique ecosystems to make way for its new mine, the largest under construction in Australia.
The protesters, disguised as Whitehaven Coal workers, fenced off an area and set up a drill, smoke machines, and noisy construction equipment as they attempted to demonstrate the environmental impact of coal mining.
Speaking to Honi, Greenpeace campaigner Nikola Casule explained the protest: “We’re building a coal mine on campus to remind the management of Sydney Uni of the daily destruction being funded through its shares in Whitehaven Coal. Vice Chancellor Michael Spence has all the information he needs to dump the University’s shares in this reckless company right now.”
Today’s protest forms part of a broader campaign aimed at encouraging the University to divest from companies whose primary business is the extraction of fossil fuels. Staff and student organisations, including the University of Sydney branch of the NTEU, the USU, and Fossil Free USyd, have officially endorsed the divestment campaign.
The protest comes despite the University last month announcing that it would review its investment policy. “The University has issued an instruction to make no further purchases in Whitehaven Coal while the review is underway,” a University spokesperson reminded Honi.
“A review is not good enough,” said Michael Thomson, president of the University of Sydney branch of the NTEU. “It is a way of delaying when the University should be divesting now.”
Despite Honi’s questions, the University could not confirm a timeframe for the completion of its review or that it plans to sell its existing Whitehaven stock.
A students’ referendum on whether the University should divest its involvement in the fossil fuel industry is set to take place on September 23-25.