Queensland authorities are urged to keep a close eye on repeat offender Whitehaven Coal, with reports the NSW-based coal company is close to sealing the deal to buy two BHP-owned mines in the Bowen Basin.
The company is also trying to progress its Winchester South coal mine in Queensland - a project that, if built, would mine 15 million tonnes of coal per annum, be responsible for millions of tonnes of carbon emissions, would use 155 million litres of water per year, and clear 2000 hectares of vegetation.
In the last 10 years Whitehaven has been found guilty or investigated for breaches of the law on more than 35 occasions, many of them including multiple offences. The company has been prosecuted numerous times and has incurred more than $1,497,500 in penalties to date.
Separately, Whitehaven is facing a shareholder backlash amid concerns from investors that pay rises for CEO Paul Flynn do not reflect the company's overall performance.
Lock the Gate Alliance QLD coordinator Ellie Smith said, “As far as coal companies go, Whitehaven is bottom of the barrel.
“Whitehaven was found guilty of unlawfully taking one billion of litres of water at the height of the worst drought in living memory at its Maules Creek coal mine.
“Right now, Whitehaven is in court over accusations its blasting was so loud, it damaged the hearing of workers at a neighbouring coal mine.
“Whitehaven has been warned, fined, and prosecuted dozens of times for crimes committed at its NSW coal mines, yet has shown no signs of changing its behaviour. Whitehaven no doubt sees these penalties as just the cost of doing business.
“Whitehaven simply isn’t worth it. Its Winchester South proposal must be rejected, and its attempts to gain a foothold in Queensland by buying up existing mines should be prevented.”
Environmental Advocacy in Central Queensland director Dr Coral Rowston said, “It’s a real shame BHP has refused to do the responsible thing here and leave the coal in the ground.
“BHP had a real opportunity to be a climate leader, but is instead flogging off its dirty assets to another company - one with a really bad criminal history.
“This sale is going to lead to more emissions at a time when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and scientific experts are screaming at governments and companies to leave fossil fuels in the ground.
“A giant fire, made worse due to fossil fuel-driven global warming, is right now tearing through world renowned Carnarvon National Park and threatening neighbouring properties. - and it’s not even summer yet.
“Central Queenslanders can’t afford the climate crisis to worsen. We can’t afford any more coal.”