Wendy Bowman changes her will to prevent Yancoal from buying her property

Determined: Camberwell resident Wendy Bowman has taken steps to prevent Yancoal from purchasing her property. She was awarded the world's pre-eminent environmental award for grassroots conservation, the Goldman Environmental Prize, in 2017. Picture: Marina Neil
Determined: Camberwell resident Wendy Bowman has taken steps to prevent Yancoal from purchasing her property. She was awarded the world's pre-eminent environmental award for grassroots conservation, the Goldman Environmental Prize, in 2017. Picture: Marina Neil

Camberwell resident Wendy Bowman is so determined to stop the expansion of an adjacent coal mine that she has altered her will to stop her property ever being sold for mining.

Still, the 86-year-old was bemused last week at the news that the Department of Planning had recently granted Yancoal a two year extension window for the commencement of its Ashton South East Open Cut project.

"I really don't know why they bother," she said.

"They must think I'm going to cark it and are hoping to swoop in and buy it."

Ms Bowman's 190-hectare property 'Rosedale' near Glennies Creek contains 60per cent of the coal that would be extracted if the mine expansion went ahead.

But as far as Ms Bowman and her supporters are concerned the matter was put to rest in a landmark 2014 Land and Environment Court ruling that put an end to a four year legal battle to stop the mine's expansion.

Game changer: Wendy and friends celebrate following the 2014 Land and Environment court ruling.

Game changer: Wendy and friends celebrate following the 2014 Land and Environment court ruling.

In 2010, Ashton, a subsidiary of the Chinese-owned mining company Yancoal, proposed to extend the mine, which would have significantly impacted on Mrs Bowman's grazing lands.

As one of the few landowners left in the area, Mrs Bowman became the key complainant in a public interest lawsuit, led by the Environmental Defenders Office, to fight the expansion.

The court ultimately declared that the mine expansion could proceed, on one condition: if Yancoal could convince Mrs Bowman to sell her land.

Ms Bowman told the Newcastle Herald that she was as determined to stop the mine expansion in life and in death.

"I have left instructions that my daughters are not allowed to sell the place until the mining lease is returned to the government," Ms Bowman said.

An Ashton Coal spokesman said the company remained in dialogue with Ms Bowman despite her position.

"While Yancoal welcomes the decision of the Secretary of the Department of Planning, Industry and the Environment to grant a two year extension of the time to commence the Ashton South East Open Cut Project, we acknowledge and accept that the project cannot proceed until Yancoal has purchased, leased or licenced Property 129," a company statement said.

"We remain in dialogue with the owner of Property 129 on this issue."

Ms Bowman, whose property contains one of the valley's few undisturbed aquifers, said her primary opposition to the mine was its impact on water systems.

"Two thirds of the aquifers between Singleton and Muswellbrook have been destroyed. I don't want it to happen here," she said.

"A lot of people don't realise that where Glennies Creek meets the Hunter River at Maison Dieu it becomes the Hunter River. If this land is lost it will have massive consequences downstream."

Ms Bowman said she was forced to sell the land because it contained private coal rights, which had existed since the nineteenth century.

She said she received ''a few hundred thousand dollars'' for land, a fraction of its real value.

Ms Bowman was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize in 2017. The prize is the world's pre-eminent environmental award for grassroots conservation, which supports individuals taking extraordinary actions to win victories against the odds.

This story Wendy Bowman tells miner she won't sell, not even over her dead body first appeared on Newcastle Herald.