Local farmers have reacted with disbelief to Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley’s approval of Whitehaven’s polluting Vickery Coal Mine this morning despite her unresolved Federal Court appeal challenging a finding that she owes Australian children a duty of care to consider climate change harms.
The coal mine, which would be responsible for 370 million tonnes of carbon emissions, was the subject of the recent Sharma v Minister for Environment Federal Court case.
Federal Court Justice Bromberg found the minister had a “duty of care” to consider the harm catastrophic climate change will inflict on Australian children when making her decision about the Vickery project.
Agriculture student Liam Donaldson, who comes from Boggabri near where the mine would be built, said the Vickery coal mine was a “barbaric” project (Video of Liam speaking about the decision and aerials of the Vickery site is available here).
“I would have thought the Environment Minister would look out for the environment,” he said.
“What we want is some stability and that is not through a coal mine that is going to come in and do horrific damage instantly and then leave our community in its wake.
“Climate is my number one concern, water is another issue. We’re looking at a major fibre producing area and if we lose that water we lose the community. The way the climate is changing it’s the last thing we need for our agricultural producers.
“We want local industry that doesn’t involve destroying our future. This one decision has had such a monumental effect on my future.”
Boggabri farmer Dave Watt said he struggled to understand how the Minister could approve such a project, knowing the damage it would cause.
“History will remember that as the world was experiencing the devastating impacts of climate change; horrific bushfires and the worst drought we’ve ever seen, Sussan Ley approved a colossal new coal mine,” he said.
“This mine will impact our precious Namoi River, it will force more farming families off their farms, and it will contribute to the climate crisis, further threatening agriculture. It’s a bloody outrage.”
Lock the Gate Alliance NSW coordinator Georgina Woods described Minister Ley’s decision as a “betrayal of young people and future generations”.
“Environment Minister Sussan Ley has approved the Vickery coal mine project, despite the Federal Court finding she has a duty of care to consider the harm catastrophic climate change will inflict on Australian children,” she said.
“This Government is not just passively failing to protect Australians from climate change: its ministers are actively slamming the door on every opportunity they are given to address it.
“If the appeal currently underway upholds the Federal Court’s finding that Minister Ley owes Australian children a duty of care, it will become increasingly untenable for the Government to avoid taking action.”