<span style="font-size:24px;">Former Wallabies captain David Pocock chains himself to digger in NSW coal mine protest at Leard State Forest</span>
<p><span><span>about an hour ago</span><span>Sun 30 Nov 2014, 11:33am</span></span></p>
Former Wallabies captain David Pocock has chained himself to a digger with other activists in a protest against a coal mine being opened in a forest in northern New South Wales.
The Zimbabwe-born 26-year-old â€” sidelined for the last two years by knee injuries â€” was among seven local farmers and environmental campaigners in the blockade today at the Maules Creek coal mine in the Leard State Forest, near Narrabri.
The ACT Brumbies player said as a young Australian he hoped his involvement in the protest sent a message about the need to move away from reliance on fossil fuels.
He was also concerned about the impact on local residents.
"This mine is about so much more than climate change," he said.
"This is something that's beginning to impact the community, and will have far greater impacts in the future in terms of the water table, the health implications of living next to a coal mine.
"I would be doing this regardless of what career I had.
"It is part of being a human being and taking on the challenges we face as a society. It is about giving back and getting the conversation going."
Land clearing recently resumed at the site operated by Whitehaven Coal.
In October, the company was granted approval by the NSW Planning Department to clear land at the site for two-and-a-half months each year under a new Biodiversity Management Plan.
Whitehaven had voluntarily suspended land clearing for several months while the matter was resolved.
The company wants to send its first train of coal from the Maules Creek project to the Port of Newcastle in March next year.
The site has been the target of protests for months. In May, two people were arrested and there was another protest in June.
There was also a protest in Sydney in June which attracted about 200 farmers and environmentalists.
Activists want an inquiry into how the mine won approval from state and national governments.
Mine owners have accused protesters of illegal activity in trying to prevent their workers from going about their lawful activity.
Whitehaven Coal said its Maules Creek project involved one of the largest coal deposits in Australia and could continue operating for up to 30 years.
It estimated the construction phase was worth $670 million and said it was one of the most significant investments underway in regional New South Wales.
The company also said when operating at full capacity the mine was expected to employ about 450 people.