Sunday, December 30, 2007

to Rio Tinto and Coal and Allied, owners of Mouth Thorley Warkwarth

This is an open letter to the owners of this mine. I am a member of the Sydney Photobloggers Photography group. On Sunday 30 December, we went for a Photo Trip to the Hunter Valley. Passing by your mine we saw some terrific photography opportunities and decided to stop to take some photos.

A man in a ute with a little yellow light drove past and stopped at the top of the hill. I guess that this was to get good line of sight communications. Is this correct. Was he reporting my vehicles number plate back to some central control room for instructions on the course of action to take? Or am I just being suspicious?

After some time, he came down the hill and advised us that we were not allowed to take photos from the road-side verge because it belonged to the mine. We said we were allowed to take photos from public property. He said that the verge was private property and that the fence was set back. Can you confirm that this is the case? The last thing he said before leaving was that your company does not like people taking photos of it's operations from their property (in this case the road-side verge. Is this correct? Is you company's policy to discourage the general public from taking photos? I would suggest that this is a bad policy. Is suggests that there is something that you want to hide from the general public that is clearly visible from he road side? I have added some photos to show what we took. A full collection can be seen at this location.

I would point out that I went to school here in Australia. I am quite aware of the trespass laws. Also I can read, and we read your no trespassing signs. At no stage did we trespass and at no stage did we intend to trespass.

"Australia NSW Bulga Mine 20071230 IMG_2919" by yewenyi [?]
Australia NSW Bulga Mine 20071230 IMG_2919
"Australia NSW Bulga Mine 20071230 IMG_2915" by yewenyi [?]
Australia NSW Bulga Mine 20071230 IMG_2915
"Australia NSW Bulga Mine 20071230 IMG_2905" by yewenyi [?]
Australia NSW Bulga Mine 20071230 IMG_2905
"Australia NSW Bulga Mine 20071230 IMG_2914" by yewenyi [?]
Australia NSW Bulga Mine 20071230 IMG_2914

3 comments:

Miss Wired said...

Just the mere fact that he was there brings attention to his dodginess. All he needed was a large neon "DODGY" sign.

Dark Orange said...

I guess that this was to get good line of sight communications. Is this correct.

No, they have good communications anywhere on the mine, it sounds like they were just there 'checking you out'. Parking at crests of hills and other highly visible areas is just standard mine protocol.

Was he reporting my vehicles number plate back to some central control room for instructions on the course of action to take? Or am I just being suspicious?

No, yes. A minesite has no special tap into the police database. At worst he'd just have been asking for confirmation as to whether to let you keep going or not.

He said that the verge was private property and that the fence was set back. Can you confirm that this is the case?

That is very likely the case. You may also find the actual mine lease covers the road as well, and really special rules and regulations cover that instance, such as no fire-arms or alcohol. Public carriageways through private land with coal mining leases is a very complex area, but I suspect the mine worker is correct.

As for your other questions, you will find just about every minesite in Australia has a "No photography" policy. It is not a security issue, it is not a public disclosure policy, it is a client PR issue.

In fact, the "no cameras" policy implimentation can be traced back to a single incident where a dragline in a QLD coal mine fell into the pit a number of years ago. Nobody was hurt, but a multi-million dollar piece of equipment that would take a year to replace was destroyed.

Unfortunately, digital photos were taken and hit the e-mail circuit. A few hours after the incident, the main client of the coal mine (The "M" in "BMA") was on the phone expressing concerns as to the mine's ability to continue their contractual obligations with regards to supply.


It was a little embarrasing, and since then, as I said, a "no cameras on the lease" policy is the norm on nearly all minesites. Fortunately, informal permission is not that hard to obtain.

You may even find that approaching the minesite directly and requesting permission as a photography group outing (assuming the mine does tours) may be successful.

yewenyi said...

The drag line incident is a sad reason to ban photos from a public location. Perhaps the car manufacturers should ban photos of car crashes based on the bad publicity thus garnered. Someone should challenge that point of view. Anyway, banning such images may be construed as withholding information from the stock market that the market needs to know.

I understand what you say about roads on private land. Having spent much time in farming communities, I know that there are often access roads across private land. But there are some important differences. In such cases, the roads are marked clearly as private roads. The road we were on was clearly a major highway and there was no signs. We were meant to believe a man who's interest may have included a desire to prevent us taking photos. If there were signs about the fact that this was a private road, we would have reacted differently.

I understand what you said about asking permission and we clearly did not intend to enter what was private land without such permission. We had stopped to take photos only because we were driving past. Hence there was no previous intention to take photos of this mine. In fact, I had been unaware of it's existence before the time we stopped to take photos.

We were also aware that there was bad blood between the mines and some of the local residents and had no intention of becoming part of that mire.