Is this the coal train that didn’t run?  
by: Nellie Malseed – Coober Pedy Regional Times (South Australia)

As a result of Operation Climate Camp SA 2009 emissions protest at Port Augusta, Flinders Power agreed that the longest coal train in the world would not run on Saturday 26th or Sunday 27th September”!

Police media release Friday 25 September 2009 TIME 3.30 pm 
“Operation Climate Camp 2009: Leigh Creek Coal train suspended”.    “… has been decided that the Leigh Creek coal train will be suspended over the coming weekend [26th and 27th September]…..”   AUTHORISED BY Assistant Commissioner Graeme Barton, Northern Operations Service. [SAPOL]  

However, at  approximately 10am Sunday morning 27th September, the “long coal train” from Leigh Creek  traveling to the Port Augusta power station laden with coal, derailed at the safety crossing in Copley, due to a technical fault.

the Leigh Creek coal train traveling toward Port Augusta derailed at Copley in the Flinders Ranges.  Photo: Nellie Malseed

The Leigh Creek coal train traveling from Leigh Creek toward Port Augusta today, Sunday, derailed at Copley in the Flinders Ranges. Photo: Nellie Malseed

Operation Climate Change respresentatives are now querying whether Babcock and Brown (Flinders Power) are flying in the face of their SAPOL suspension or whether SAPOL are simply paying lipservice to the public and environmental groups. 

Port Augusta (brown coal powered) Power Station the focus of climate change controversy in South Australia

Port Augusta (brown coal powered) Power Station the focus of climate change controversy in South Australia

A spokesperson for the group said they are not buying into Flinder’s Power claim that the “weekend” suspension didn’t include Sunday. “It appears that our governments are not serious about reducing carbon emissions or supporting those in the community who are making this effort, with signs of Climate Change imminent”

Local residents in the Flinders Ranges believe the train that they saw derailed at the Copley crossing, heading south on Sunday morning, enroute to Port Augusta, to be 75 tonne capacity and approximately 3 km long – with 16.9 metres per carriage.  ” Thats at least 16.779 million tonnes of carbon dioxide greenhouse gases – PER day, to power the uranium mines and the Port Augusta and Whyalla Industries”, said one resident.

Prior to the arrival of any recovery team, a spokesman at the scene of the derailment told on the spot reporter Nellie Malseed that a part of the coupling broke off the coal train’s first engine and fell on to the tracks. As the second engine passed over the broken coupling it  destabilised  the coal train pushing it off the tracks. 

The spokesman told Ms Malseed that they have 3 weeks stockpile of coal at Port Augusta, so there would be no impact on power production at the power station due to the coal delivery not being made on Sunday.

A huge crane travelled from Port Augusta to lift the coal train back onto the rails.  Photo: Nellie Malseed

A huge crane travelled from Port Augusta to lift the heavily laden coal train back onto the rails on Sunday night under lights. Photo: Nellie Malseed

A crane from Port Augusta was ordered,  arriving at 7.30pm on Sunday evening to lift up and replace the engine back onto the tracks. Night lights were set up for the operation.

After a 12 hour ordeal  the coal train was back online and working again by 9.45pm allowing the cranes to return to Port Augusta.

In a 12 hour ordeal, workers were able to repair damages and return the train to its tracks.  Photo: Nellie Malseed

After a 12 hour ordeal, workers were able to repair damages and return the train to its tracks. Photo: Nellie Malseed

Rail workers then set about assessing the tracks and clearing broken wood and debris from the line. The distance between the lines still needed to be measured to determine if the derailment had bent the railway lines.

Concerns of a derailment of the Leigh Creek long train were highlighted in the media last week after 50 Camp Climate Change protesters presented a Community Decommission Order and 350 native flowers on Saturday morning outside the Port Augusta power stations.  Peaceful protesters were demanding that the aging,  inefficient stations be closed down and replaced with renewable energy. 

The power stations had been declared a “protected area” under the Protective Security Act 2007 for the period of the Climate Camp.  Protesters marched two kilometres through the protected area to a point where they were stopped by 70 police including many mounted police and a canine unit. 

Workers cleared broken wood and debris from the line and assess damage to the rails

Workers cleared broken wood and debris from the line and assess damage to the rails

A number of speakers addressed the crowd at the power station. After negotiations a small delegation of protesters were escorted by police to the actual front gates of the power station where representatives of Flinders Power failed to meet with the delegation to accept the Community Decommission Order.

The action occurred as part of a four day climate camp where a range of workshops were held to discuss  the science and politics of climate change, including the need for an immediate switch to renewable energy.    Participants emphasised the need for a just transition for workers in the region and that more jobs could be created in renewable energy than are currently provided by the power stations in South Australia.

Camp Climate Change protesters presented a Community Decommission Order at the Port Augusta Power Station

Camp Climate Change protesters presented a Community Decommission Order at the Port Augusta Power Station

In the lead up to the international climate summit in Copenhagen, activists called on the Federal Government to scrap the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, take measures to genuinely cut Australia’s emissions and switch immediately to renewable energy.

Reporting the derailment - Nellie Malseed

Reporting the derailment - Nellie Malseed a 14 year old student from South Melbourne sleuthing news in the Flinders Ranges

Julie Jordan, an activist with Climate Camp commented, “we’ve taken some important steps over the weekend to highlight the urgent necessity to switch off coal-fired power stations and engage regional communities in the necessary switch to renewable energy. 

As a result of Climate Camp SA 2009 protest, Flinders Power agreed that the longest coal train in the world would not run on the weekend!

We will continue our campaign until the coal train and all coal-fired power stations are closed down forever”.

Reported and photographed by:  Nellie Malseed at Copley. Nellie is a 14-year-old student from South Melbourne, on location in the Flinders Ranges

Related Posts

Port Augusta: corporate protectors versus climate protesters
Tuesday, September 29, 2009

 Coal Toxicity

12 replies »

  1. It’s hard to be overly critical of such a young journalist, however there are some very significant factual errors in this report and it has a very misleading reporting style here, which would perhaps lead people to the conclusion that protesters derailed a train carrying coal. This of course didn’t happen. Great work to all of the protesters!!! We really do need renewable energy, such as solar thermal power, not brown coal, but the government won’t invest until we all make some noise about it.

  2. Not sure Richard, she reports quite clearly that the railworker said the coupling broke.

    There’s no suggestion of foul play by the protesters except what was publicly reported as a fear in the news last week.

    The only discrepancy to be seen here is that Flinders Power said the train wouldn’t run. They look to have been caught out not keeping their word. Maybe read again as it has an ironic touch to it.

    Today the ACB were interviewing Flinders Power who didn’t fess up to this failed attempt to deliver coal on the weekend when they’d agreed not to. The feature today being, why so many police were deployed for a peaceful protest by some Greenies delivering flowers!

    What’s clear here is that corporations have no intentions of lowering emissions for the sake of the immediate environment or the future of the global atmosphere. As for not keeping their word – It looks like they got caught out by a youngster! RM

  3. I say good on the people for forming groups and taking these polluters to task publicly. If it wasn’t for groups like this getting themselves into the media by radical actions the heavy polluters and their outdated methods of providing “clean electricity” would stay under the rug and in hidden communities, like in the Flinders.
    I didn’t get the impression the protesters derailed the coal train. Good on the young lass for being in the right place at the right time and doing the job. If Flinders Power made an agreement not to run their train, then it seems the ancient Flinders with it’s strange ways is watching over things.

  4. What justice. It just shows how shallow corporate promises are. Nothing is hidden, not even in the bush. This company is owned by Babcock and Brown who has trouble as it’s address. What else can go wrong for this company. Not hard to see why. Once a man’s word was his honour.

  5. Wouldn’t be the protesters. People like this are responsible and not sneaky. It would be like the group who painted the side of the oil tanker. They photographed it deliberately and sent it around the world. To be arrested is to draw awareness. It reads ok to me. What it does show is that small towns are rarely in the mind’s eye of the media where all this environmental crime is happening

  6. Well done to the protesters and the reporter! We need to wake up to the extreme danger that the climate crisis poses to our economy and way of life and replace coal with renewable energy as soon as possible! (and it’s possible now with existing commercialised technologies such as solar thermal with molten salt storage).

  7. Terrific photos and report – was probably too embarrassing for the commercial news to report. I would agree with Gerard, the old country is kicking back and obviously has a sense of humour and the mob that runs the coal wouldn’t have tuppence for train and rail maintenance because the profits would no doubt go to the greedy polluting owners whoever they are post Babcock. I travelled across that track last month on the way back from the Arkaroola Sanctuary and noticed the crossing line on the western side is out of safety specs and about 1.5 metre’s too close to the line – stupid mistakes like the train incident and inability of SA govt contractors to use a tape measure could have cost someone their life.

  8. My Goodness!

    Would the Australian Greens please consider this lass as a replacement for the current leadership – on the ball, proactive, and informing the public about issues that matter!


    Climate Camp SA organising collective

    29 September 2009 – For immediate release

    14 year old girl uncovers police and power station’s misinformation
    Climate Camp SA was held 24 – 27 September in the Port Augusta region. The camp was held to highlight to the public the reliance on non-renewable, polluting sources of energy and the urgent measures that need to be taken to tackle runaway climate change.

    Climate camp organisers negotiated with police before and during the camp to ensure the safety of all participants. Some protestors were planning non-violent direct action targeting the coal train, which runs from Leigh Creek to Port Augusta. On Friday police informed camp organisers that the coal train would not run for the entire weekend.

    On Saturday a peaceful protest was held at the front of the Port Augusta power stations. A group of 50 concerned citizens were confronted by over a hundred police, including several mounted police and a dog squad, however no arrests were made.

    On Sunday a report by a 14 year old girl in the Cooper Pedy Regional Times, revealed that the coal train had infact run despite prior negotiations. The train had derailed at Copely, due to a technical fault, shortly after leaving Leigh Creek in the morning.

    Did the police and power station intentionally mislead the protestors and media by running the train at a different time than normally scheduled?

    On the day of action, a police liaison spoke to the sergeant in charge at Port Augusta and questioned the validity of the train being stopped and proof of their claimed action. Protestors were then re-assured to take the word of the officers that the train had infact been stopped for the entirety of the weekend. Police liaison Lauren Campbell said “Future South Australian Climate Camps are less likely to undergo negotiations with police due to what appears as a breach of public trust.”

    For further information, please see article published in the Cooper Pedy Regional Times –

    Contact: Media spokesperson, Lauren Campbell – 0413 780 116

  9. Coal is Toxic

    These protestor’s and the reporter have a point – but the most pressing point is toxicity – especially the low grade coal that is in question – lignite coal – low carbon/high ash/high green house emmissions.

    If the protestor’s live in Port Augusta they should get the hell out – the lack of rail maintenance would no doubt reflect low standards in the coal burning process – this low grade coal is highly toxic and they should employ/pay for independent air quality analysis on an ongoing basis and conduct blood samples of local people.

    They should also get independant EMF analysis around the township as heightened EMF exposure in such a toxic environment will compound health issues.

    They could write to WHO and demand that they are protected from the toxic industry or seek refugee status and government funding so they can relocate to safer areas.

    There is so much evidence that this type of energy is inappropriate in dense populated areas, so the people concerned should be petitioning their local MP’s to close the operation on immediate air and water quality health concerns.

    For Gods sake get water filters if you have tanks and move away from the area until the operation is closed down.

  10. Wonderful news thread and great to see a new avid reporter fresh on the scene….love your comments above Jame’s but coal is the by-product of ancient forests….hardly ‘toxic’ but maybe the lesson is the need for governments to consider alternatives which are less harmful to populations.

  11. i would have thought the desalination plant in adelaide would have been more of a concern. Why don’t we hear anything from this site on this issue?

    Joe: Adelaide city has it’s own news outlets and in turn we focus on regional issues or items that may be of interest to our population.

    When entering a website it’s always handy to read it’s Disclaimer. It mentions that
    issues may be raised by writing a letter to editor. By request letters or articles can be left open for comments. You are welcome to submit your concerns regarding the Adelaide Desalination Plant and see if it raises regional or reader interest.

    It doesn’t always appear that regional concerns are of interest to those in the city let alone politicians, unless regional dust affects them. The regions also have water related problems, plus more to contend with. Moderator

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