Anvil Hill Alliance

The Anvil Hill Alliance is a group of organisations and individuals determined to stop the proposed mine in NSW.


Anvil Hill is situated at Wybong, west of Muswellbrook in the Upper Hunter Valley of NSW, Australia. It is the largest intact stand of remnant vegetation on the Central Hunter Valley floor, home to threatened species and indigenous heritage. Centennial Coal wants to lay waste to this with an open-cut coal mine that will produce at least 9 million tonnes of coal a year and help drive the massive expansion of the Hunter Valley coal industry. If this goes ahead it will accelerate the onset of dangerous climate change, the greatest threat to human and non-human life.

The Anvil Hill Alliance is a group of organisations and individuals determined to stop the proposed mine. Click here to read and sign on to the Anvil Hill Alliance statement, and to see who has signed on already. (sourced 20/11/2022 from Wayback Machine

Anvil Hill is a landscape feature in the valley of Wybong Creek, a major tributary of the Hunter River in NSW 20 km west of Muswellbrook. The extensive forested valleys around it are the site of a proposal for a huge open pit coal mine. This single coal development proposal promises to excavate and export 10.5 million tonnes of coal for the next 15 years and it alone will increase coal exports from Newcastle Harbor, already the biggest coal exporting port in the world, by 40%. Saving Anvil Hill has become the symbol of resistance to the permanent damage being done by coal mining to Hunter Valley land and waterways. But more, drawing the line at Anvil Hill is also seen as taking responsibility to stop the fueling of global climate change by coal exports and kick starting a clean energy future in NSW.

The Anvil Hill Alliance is a coalition of over 30 environmental groups the driving force of which is the local resident group Anvil Hill Project Watch steered by the amazing Christine Phelps, Greenpeace Australia Pacific as part of their commitment to action on climate chaos in NSW and the Newcastle based anarchist activist group called Rising Tide led by Steve Philips. In terms of future shaping the Anvil Hill campaign is one to watch and actively support. See the Rising Tide take on the significance of Anvil Hill. On 4 – 7 October, the Alliance presented an Anvil Hill Action Camp and participated amongst the other 30-60 people per day. See the program and a blogspot report. On Friday 6 October, the closing day for objections to the mine proposal, the camp participants went into Muswellbrook and, outside the offices of the developer, Centennial Coal, pledged their intention to resist the development. See the Sydney Indymedia.


The Action camp took place on the property of Christine Phelps and was organized principally by a young woman I had met in June when she and I joined eco-activists Gordon and Easton at camp in the scrub on the west side of the Anvil Hill valley. We had come from the World Environment Day protest organized on 6 June by Rising Tide against Newcastle coal exports. For both of us it was our first introduction to Anvil Hill and Easton and Gordon who had been walking the country photographing wildlife and documenting Aboriginal artefacts, were our guides.

The World Environment Day protest organized by Rising Tide on 6 June 2006. Historic day! First time ever coal freighters needed a police escort to leave Newcastle Harbour. Promise of things to come. Around the camp fire we had talked about how to build the campaign and get activists engaged and how in particular to get activists on the ground, camping together and familiar with the country as we had become in the three days that we were together. The idea of an activist skillshare camp came up and our camp broke up with a mutual commitment to take the idea further. For the skillshare, I was advocating something re-Earthing and tribal; in particular something that created sacred ceremony which recognized elders and served as an initiation experience for the young warriors of both genders. I had experienced in such doing Standing Up Alive mens movement camps in the 90s and knew its power. In particular I saw it as a strategy for directly engaging elders in the campaign. Why should activism be considered the sole provence of the young? There are so many older people with developed skills, resources and time on their hands. But that concept was as alien to that young woman as she was new to the Australian bush. She ran with her idea of an Action Camp, got backing for it from the Alliance and met all my subsequent attempts at discussion with evasion.

So it was, I confess, that I approached the Action Camp feeling somewhat rebuffed this old and expereinced activist brushed aside. But better an action camp of some kind than none. I attended curious to see what. It was a very well organized camp and just camping together builds a sense of belonging and association. The company was excellent, activists committed to the defense of Anvil Hill are jewels amongst the dross. In the critique that follows I am not questioning the integrity or good intentions of the people involved. But I am questioning methods and assumptions for movement building in these times.

So what was considered more appropriate than experiencing the sacred at Anvil Hill? It turned out to be a corporate management process called ‘strategising’, very cerebral, very wordy and involving butchers paper and marking pens. The Camp was presented as having an open program to which anyone could contribute but in fact ‘strategising’ was built in and core, pre-arranged and occupying the only tent that was weather and wind proof and taking up most for first two days of the camp. The strategising process I had met before and had been singularly unimpressed. On 8 July directly after the Anvil Hill camp and the invitation of Nat Lowrey of Blue Mountains FoE, I had travelled far to attend the campaigns session of the Friends of the Earth National meeting at the Dorroughby Field Centre on the north coast of NSW. It was my first FoE meetings and I went expecting to get a national overview of FoE activism and learn where the Cyanide Watch campaign might fit. Instead I walked in on an abstract discussion about strategy and how to evoke it. The process was painful, the process leaders out of their depth and the process receivers patient, puzzled, polite and bored shitless. I stayed till lunch, talked to no-one about matters that concerned me and left thinking that if that was typical of a FoE meeting it augured ill for FoE as a force for change in these times. I heard later the experience was similar for others and the FoE national conference broke up with its activists feeling flat. Nat has told me since that FoE, after 30 years of positive change making, is going strong and is still a force for change and that the meeting I attended was an exemption. FoE mid year meetings, she says, are always more tiresome compared to the national meetings at the start of the year when all the campaigns, projects, local groups report and any new groups/campaigns that might want to fall under the FoE umbrella get heard, But from the feedback she had had of that particular mid year meeting it was the flattest in a long time. Maybe it was the heady and abstract strategising process that made the difference.

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Website: Anvil Hill Alliance