Wallaby flanker David Pocock has been arrested after chaining himself to a digger to protest a controversial coal mine in northwest NSW, according to activists.
The injured former captain was chained to the digger with seven others, part of a group of 30 protesters who have converged on the Maules Creek coal mine in the Leard Forest, joining a long running blockade at the site.
After 10 hours occupying the super digger, Mr Pocock and farmer Rick Laird have been arrested and taken into custody by Narrabri police, the Leard Forest Alliance said in a statement.
A police media spokeswoman confirmed two men had been arrested at Sunday’s protest but would not confirm their identities.
Shortly before his apparent arrest, Mr Pocock spoke to AAP while still chained to the machine.
“It’s incredibly important that we have conversations about this,” he said.
“In 2014, to put a coal mine in the middle of a state forest just doesn’t seem to make any sense.
— David Pocock (@pocockdavid) November 29, 2014
“The local people are not only concerned about the effects of this mine on the climate in the future but also how it affects the water table.
“When you’re living around the mine, that’s stuff you have to think about.”
The 26-year-old hasn’t played with the Wallabies since undergoing a knee reconstruction in March.
He said he was participating in a peaceful protest and would stay until someone came to cut him off.
“I would be doing this regardless of what career I had,” he said in a statement.
“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.”
Local farmers and environmental groups are calling for an immediate halt to construction work on the Maules Creek Mine and a full inquiry into how the project was approved by NSW and federal governments.
Whitehaven coal boss Paul Flynn last week hit out at critics of the mine and those leading the blockade, saying their actions were illegal.
“These people are getting in the way of our employees, average people who are just trying to come to work and do their job,” he said.
Production is ramping up at Maules Creek, with the first coal due to leave in January.