Lock the Gate Alliance has slammed NSW mining compliance framework as “impotent” after mining Whitehaven Coal lodged a modification application for its Maules Creek coal mine apparently to get approval for two already-built and highly contentious water pipelines.
“This decision by Whitehaven Coal to lodge two applications to modify its development consent for the controversial Maules Creek coal mine seems to be an admission by the company that it did not have approval for construction in the first place,” said Alliance spokesperson Georgina Woods.
“The pipelines are already carrying water sourced from nearby farms - outside the mine’s approved operation area - to run Whitehaven’s parched coal mine. This is happening while farmers in the district continue to suffer due to the extreme drought.”
Notice was posted today by the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment of two applications by Whitehaven to modify its approval at Maules Creek. One concerns a “Roma and Brighton Water Pipeline” and the other an “Olivedene Water Pipeline.”
Lock the Gate Alliance wrote to the Department of Planning a month ago to alert it that the two pipelines were under construction in breach of the company’s development approval. No substantial response has been received from the Department, but Lock the Gate understands that a compliance investigation is underway.
The Environmental Defenders Office acting for Lock the Gate wrote to Whitehaven CEO Paul Flynn on 6 December asking the company to cease constructing or using the pipelines as they were not approved as part of the mine’s operation.
Ms Woods said, “Whitehaven seems to be as good as admitting that it did not have approval to construct these pipelines. Instead of responding to the community’s mounting anger at the actions of this rogue company, the department appears to be preparing to reverse-engineer approval for these illegal pipelines.
“We have received no response from the Department of Planning to our letter about these pipelines and are still waiting on word from the Natural Resources Access Regulator on whether it will prosecute the company for illegally taking surface water for the last four years.
“Meanwhile, thousands of litres of beautiful alluvial water continues to be pumped into the mine every single drought-lingering day.
“We are frankly disgusted that no one in the impotent NSW Government has held this rogue mining company to account for repeated breaches of its approval and the impact it has had on the farming community at Maules Creek.
“The coal industry is flagrantly disregarding the law in New South Wales, while the public suffers the environmental and social damage it inflicts.”