Two new independent expert ecologists have confirmed that Whitehaven Coal provided false and misleading information to State and Federal Governments in order to get approval for its controversial Maules Ck coal mine, near Narrabri. The Maules Creek Community Council is calling for Environment Minister Greg Hunt to revoke the approval.
Based on detailed knowledge of the native vegetation communities in the Mt Kaputar area the experts agree that the biodiversity offsets proposed by Whitehaven were mapped incorrectly, and contained a common vegetation type, not the endangered ecosystem claimed by Whitehaven.
State and Federal Governments both approved the Whitehaven coal mine on the grounds that the biodiversity offsets contained identical endangered ecosystems that would 'substitute' for the endangered ecosystem that would be bulldozed for the mine.
”I know that at least four areas on the ‘Wirradale’ and ‘Mt Lindesay’ offset properties do not constitute the Critically Endangered Ecological Community (CEEC) that is protected under the Federal EPBC Act.” said ecologist Wendy Hawes.
“I fully concur with the January findings of North West Ecological Services that the dominant vegetation community in areas mapped by the proponent as White Box grassy woodland was in fact Stringybark Open Forest.” she said.
“Evidence provided by these two new experts indicate that Whitehaven Coal stand to make many millions of dollars from a new coal mine that was approved on the basis of false information" said Phil Laird spokesperson for the Maules Creek Community Council.
"This coal mine raises very serious questions about the integrity of the mine approval process, the failure of government departments to check the data provided by mining companies and possibly the quality of existing vegetation mapping in NSW.
“The new information is in the hands of Federal Environment Minister, Greg Hunt, and we are urging him to suspend the approval until the ongoing federal investigation into this issue is complete." he said.
“If the approval was based on false information, the approval should be revoked as the community can have no confidence in the mining assessment process if this kind of debacle is allowed to stand.
The two confirming expert opinions come as the Burke approval is being challenged in the Federal Court. On the 16th of September 2012 the Northern Inland Council for the Environment commenced judicial review proceedings against the decision made by the former Environment Minister following the leaking of a letter by the NSW State Government. A decision is pending.
For Comment: Wendy Hawes ph 0408 224 997 Phil Laird: 0428 712 622
Report: Review of NWES field assessment report by Peter Richards is available here.