Illawarra climate activists have welcomed University of Wollongong's decision to cancel its 2020 Coal Operators Conference.
Wollongong Undergraduate Student Association (WUSA) representative Jasmine Duff said UOW's decision to indefinitely defer the conference scheduled for February 12-14, was a huge win for the climate movement.
But the Illawarra Climate Justice Alliance (ICJA) member added activists would not rest until the university shut down its own Mining Research Centre.
"This centre is contributing to the destruction of our planet. Students won't rest until it is shut down, and we're going to be taking action against it when semester starts," Ms Duff said.
She added activists from around Australia had been planning for months to converge on Wollongong to shut down the conference with a peaceful protest.
ICJA understood that University management, security and local police were monitoring and meeting about activist preparations to shut down the conference.
On Tuesday, in a public statement UOW confirmed its decision to defer the conference, which it has run every year for the past 19 years, "as part of a short-term refocusing of university priorities".
The fact that the university has backed down on hosting the coal 2020 conference shows that the climate movement has power in Wollongong, and that by taking to the streets we can change what happens in this city.WUSA representative Jasmine Duff
"The fact that the university has backed down on hosting the coal 2020 conference shows that the climate movement has power in Wollongong, and that by taking to the streets we can change what happens in this city," Ms Duff said.
"Thousands of University of Wollongong students have marched in rallies against the burning and mining of coal over the past year, and in 2020 we are only going to grow in our numbers.
"On March 13 all around the country students are going to be striking from their universities and demanding climate action. Here in Wollongong we are going to be demanding that the University of Wollongong ends the Mining Research Centre."
ICJA member Craig Perritt, who has worked in the steel and coal industry previously, was happy to see some progress in recognition of the role of coal, particularly thermal coal in climate change.
He was also pleased to see UOW responding and starting to move towards more sustainable energy.
"I understand why people who work in those carbon intensive industries might be defensive because it is our livelihood," Mr Perritt said.
"But at the same time there is no livelihood if there is nowhere to live that is inhabitable and I think we are starting to see the potential of what, particularly Australia can be like unless we actually start taking serious action."
Extinction Rebellion Wollongong's Toby Thompson said mass protests would follow if UOW tried to move the conference elsewhere.
UOW explain coal conference decision
A "short-term refocusing of university priorities" has seen the University of Wollongong defer its 2020 Coal Operators Conference.
The university has considered the immediate needs of its communities at this time and adjusted its priorities accordingly.
A UOW spokesperson said while the conference scheduled for February 12-14 provided a valuable forum for sharing best practice and innovation in safety and environmental performance for the mining sector, "the university has considered the immediate needs of its communities at this time and adjusted its priorities accordingly".
"The Mining Engineering Group in UOW's Faculty of Engineering and Information Sciences will continue supporting industry innovation via other means while options for a future forum are explored.
"The work of research and teaching in the field mining engineering will continue.
"The main focus of the conference's papers was on improving safety for mine workers and minimising environmental impact from mining through improved management of overburden, which is the material removed in the process of extracting the desired mineral."