LEGAL CHALLENGE LODGED AGAINST 'DODGY' APPROVAL OF MAULES CREEK COAL MINE

Published: July 19, 2013

A local environment group from north-western NSW has today lodged a legal challenge in the Federal Court against approval of the Whitehaven Maules Ck coal mine, near Narrabri, and the neighbouring Idemitsu Boggabri coal mine.

Both mines were approved by the Federal Environment Minister in February 2013 and his decisions are now being challenged by the Northern Inland Council for the Environment under the Federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

"We are challenging the approval of the Maules Ck and Boggabri coal mines because of the dodgy process by which they were approved and the devastating impacts they will have" said Phil Spark, spokesperson with the Northern Inland Council for the Environment.

"The decision to approve these highly controversial mines was made in haste, after documents were leaked and on the basis of potentially false or misleading information.

"The mines together will clear almost 1,500 hectares of the Box-Gum critically endangered ecosystem - one of the most threatened ecosystems in Australia.

"Vast areas of forest that provides habitat for native plants and animals, including the Koala, will be bulldozed and converted into an open-cut coal pit.

"We will be asking the Federal Court to overturn the approvals provided by the Federal Minister for these two severely damaging coal projects" he said.

"If these mines proceed, they will rip the heart out of our local farming community of Maules Ck" said Peter Watson, a farmer adjoining the mines.

"The mines will lead to a major drop in our groundwater and will dump dangerous coal dust on our farms and families" he said.

For comment:  Phil Spark on 0427 642 245, Peter Watson 0427 434 643

ATTACHMENT 1:  Background Information on Maules Ck and Boggabri Coal Mines

 

  • The Maules Creek Coal and Boggabri Coal projects are located near Narrabri in north-west NSW. 
  • The Whitehaven Maules Ck mine is a new greenfield open-cut project that will extract 13Mtpa of coal and clear approximately 2,000 hectares of land.  Nathan Tinkler sold his stake in the project earlier this year.
  •  The Idemitsu Boggabri mine is an expansion to  a current open-cut mine to extract 7Mtpa which will clear approximately 1,535 hectares of land. 

 

Approval Process and Investigations

  • On the 6th February 2013, the Federal Environment Minister extended the deadline for a Federal decision on the mines to 30th April 2013. 
  • However, on the 11th February 2013 the Minister back-flipped, approving the projects in a rush after a letter from him to the NSW Government was leaked to the media on the 9th February.
  • On the 6th July 2013, Whitehaven claimed to have all final approvals needed to commence construction of the mine.
  • The two mines are now subject to a Federal investigation as to whether they used false and misleading information in order to obtain approval[1].
  • Former owner of the Maules Ck coal mine, Tinkler company Aston Coal, is currently being prosecuted for failure to disclose reportable political donations.

 

Cumulative Environmental Impacts

  • The mines will clear the largest remnant of bushland left on the Liverpool Plains, Leard State Forest, which is part of a national biodiversity hotspot.
  • The mines will impact on habitat for up to 396 plant and animal species and as many as 23 threatened species.
  • It is estimated that the mines will lead to a 5-7m drop in the water table and up to 18,000 tonnes of dust being dropped on surrounding farms each year.
  • Total greenhouse gas emissions from the coal produced will, when burnt, exceed 60 Mt/yr of CO2 equivalent - a total greenhouse impact greater than that of 165 individual nations, including Sweden, Hungary and Finland.

 

Community Opposition

  • There has been concerted community opposition to the two mines since 2010 from all the key sectors of the community including farmers, Traditional Owners and environmentalists. 
  • Earlier this year the Maules Ck coal mine was the subject of a hoax media release by Jonathon Moylan which has recently led to his prosecution by ASIC.
  • Last week Gomeroi elders walked off the job conducting cultural heritage surveys for Whitehaven Coal in protest at the Maules Ck coal mine.


[1] Investigation acknowledged by SEWPaC in answers to Senate Estimates questions here, see page 76

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