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Rugby star charged on mine protest

Former Australia rugby union captain David Pocock has been charged by police over his involvement in a protest against a coal mine.

Pocock was arrested after chaining himself for several hours to an excavation machine at the site in New South Wales, and was one of seven people charged over the protest. All seven have been granted conditional bail.

The 26-year-old will appear at Narrabri Local Court in New South Wales on January 14, and the six other arrested protesters will appear on January 27. The group faces charges including entering enclosed land without a lawful excuse.

Pocock was among 30 protesters who converged on the Maules Creek coal mine in the Leard Forest to continue a long-running blockade. With local farmer Rick Laird he chained himself to a digger for 10 hours before being arrested by police.

In an interview shortly before his arrest, Pocock said: "In 2014, to put a coal mine in the middle of a state forest just doesn't seem to make any sense.

"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."

In a statement, Pocock said his status as a leading professional rugby player was irrelevant.

"I would be doing this regardless of what career I had," he said.

Zimbabwe-born Pocock has played 45 tests for Australia but has not played for the Wallabies since undergoing a knee reconstruction in March.

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 the state and federal governments.

The Australian Rugby Union later issued Pocock with a formal warning over his arrest.

"While we appreciate David has personal views on a range of matters, we've made it clear that we expect his priority to be ensuring he can fulfil his role as a high-performance athlete," the ARU said in a statement.

A conviction could affect his ability to travel overseas.

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