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Wendy Bowman 2017 Goldman Prize Recipient for Islands and Island Nations

Author: Goldman Prize, Published on: 3 May 2017

New South Wales (NSW), on Australia’s eastern coast, is a region with a rich agricultural history…However, in recent years, the region’s farms have become islands surrounded by oceans of open-pit coal mines.

Under directives to prioritize economic growth above all else, government is issuing coal licenses with little regard to mining’s impact on local residents’ lives...Coal mining has displaced many landowners in the valley. Those who remain live surrounded by around-the-clock blasting and heavy equipment operation…Landowners were being forced to move off their property with little say or explanation of their rights…

In 2010, Chinese-owned Yancoal proposed to extend the Ashton South East Open Cut mine, which would bring mining operations onto Bowman’s grazing lands and the banks of one of Hunter River’s most important water tributaries. Bowman was determined to stay and protect the community’s health, land, and water from further destruction. As one of the few landowners left in the area, Bowman became a key plaintiff in a public interest lawsuit to fight back the mine expansion…The Land and Environment Court issued its ruling in December 2014: The Ashton expansion could proceed, but only if Yancoal could get Bowman to sell them her land. It was the first time an Australian court placed this kind of restriction on a mining company…Bowman has refused offers of millions from Yancoal, and…continues to be an advocate for the community’s health and environment, and has worked with the local health department to place air monitors near coal mines…

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