A quiet Southern Highlands road has become the unlikely front in a battle between residents and Hume Coal over its mining plans in the area.
Protesters blocked a private road at Sutton Forest yesterday morning to bar the miner from a property where it plans to drill an undisclosed number of exploration boreholes.
But Hume Coal said it expected the group to respect the wishes and legal rights of landholders who negotiated to give the company access.
The atmosphere was relaxed as residents and neighbours sat with cars and tractors at the entrance to Carters Lane.
There were no signs of the company or drilling equipment.
But protesters said they were there for the long haul and some would even stay 24 hours a day.
The blockade was sparked after Hume Coal sent a letter to nearby residents that it would drill for exploration and environmental monitoring in the area throughout October.
The company has struck a confidential access deal with the owner of one of the four properties that use the road.
Southern Highlands Coal Action Group convener Peter Martin said neighbours were furious.
"This is a private road owned by one of the other landowners and he's said to the coal company you can't have access," he said.
"We're really saying to the state government this is an area with beautiful agricultural land; a lot of residents; one of the best, most productive aquifer systems ... and mining should never be done here because the coal seam is directly under the aquifer."
About 30 people showed up yesterday morning and Mr Martin said the crowd reached about 75.
Ross Alexander, who owns the road, said coal mining in the agricultural area was not in the country's best interests and showed a lack of vision.
"Our future is food and water," he said.
Another nearby resident, Matthew Burrows, has grown olive trees at his property for 12 years.
"The aquifer we rely on for bore water and I guess our story is basically you do mining underneath and the aquifers are just going to crack and dry up," he said.
Other residents also spoke out against the company's plans.
The Hume Coal Project is a joint initiative between Korean steelmaker POSCO and Cockatoo Coal.
A spokesman said the company was negotiating several other access arrangements in the area.
It was also undertaking a two-year water study and monitoring program as no comprehensive model existed.
"The water study meets the guidelines set out in the NSW government's recently released Aquifer Interference Policy and will be peer reviewed at an appropriate time.
"The negotiated land access agreement in place with the landholder includes exploration drilling and environmental monitoring to help inform this study," the spokesman said.