Taking on the Coal Mines

“the mine could go ahead, but …  And the ‘but’ was me.”

wendy bowman david fanner the guardian
photographs by David Fanner for The Guardian

Last April, Hunter Valley farmer, Wendy Bowman (83) was awarded the Goldman environmental prize.

For thirty years,  Wendy has fought the expansion of open-cut coalmines across the valley. She has helped organise her community to protect agricultural land and water. She founded the Minewatch NSW group to support landowners under pressure to sell.

In 2010 Wendy refused substantial offers from the Chinese-owned company Yancoa, who wanted to mine underneath her land.

“Their solicitor rang me and said, ‘I think I’ll come over and we’ll discuss the purchase price,’” she remembers. “I said, ‘I wouldn’t bother if I were you.’ He said, ‘Why?’ I said, ‘I’m not selling to you, so don’t contact me again.’

“I haven’t heard from them since.”

In The Guardian

After a protracted legal battle, in 2015, the state court of appeal ruled that the mine could proceed only on condition that Bowman sold Yancoal her land. It was the first time an Australian court had placed such a restriction on a mining company.

With three adult daughters and six grandchildren, and a kitchen wall displaying photographs from her many trips ( to Madagascar, Mauritius, Réunion, Canada, Iceland, Greenland and other places), Wendy is a fit and energetic 83-year-old.

Her property sustains her. She has a herd of cattle that she looks after with help from two staff. The work keeps her interested and active. She has a deep love for her animals and for wildlife  lizards, echidnas and cockies.

In June 2013 Bowman was awarded the Order of Australia.



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