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Aussie cowboys join Sydney rally against coal and gas mining
[SYDNEY] Thousands of Australians including farmers on horseback rallied in the heart of Sydney on Saturday, calling on authorities to ditch coal and gas mining developments in rural regions in favour of renewable energy projects.
There were unusual sights in the harbour city's central business district as horses trotted down a major street to join demonstrators - including indigenous peoples, knitting grandmothers and environmental campaigners - outside the parliament of New South Wales state.
Campaigners in rural regions across the vast continent have been protesting against mining projects near residential, agricultural and farming areas, saying they would damage productive land.
"The global market for coal and gas is changing and global approaches to energy are changing," said Georgina Woods, the "Time2Choose" rally organiser from anti-coal group Lock The Gate told AFP.
"We don't want our state to sacrifice sustainable agriculture and community for the short-term money that comes with mining that will only bring long-term environmental degradation."
While Australia is a major gas exporter and has large offshore projects, there has been a backlash against onshore developments such as coal-seam gas mining.
Farmers and other landowners are concerned that fracking, an extraction method under which high-pressure water and chemicals are used to split rockbeds, could contaminate groundwater sources.
Some states and territories have imposed fracking bans citing environmental reasons, while others have increased their investment in renewable energy projects.
"Our farms are being ruined, our food bowls have no water, they have drill pads or coal mines in the middle of their farms," Clare Twomey, one of the co-founders of Knitting Nannas Against Gas, told AFP.
"It's a huge disaster for our planet." The issue has taken on a new dimension over the past year amid rising energy bills for households, with some observers blaming the onshore gas moratoriums for supply shortages and price spikes in the domestic market.
Non-renewables such as coal and gas are Australia's primary fuel source for generating electricity, although renewable generation has been rising in recent years.