Namoi Valley farmers impacted by Whitehaven’s projects are calling on the company to stop spending on new mines and start preparing for the inevitable global decline in demand for coal as the renewable energy transition speeds up.
The company’s AGM kicks off in Sydney tomorrow, with protests planned for outside the venue and proxy shareholders to ask questions on behalf of farmers.
Whitehaven reported a massive profit of $2 billion this year due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and locals in Whitehaven’s impact zone want the company to spend that money facilitating the transition to clean energy and supporting its workers and communities, rather than spending on capital costs to open new coal mines.
Boggabri farmer Sally Hunter said, “Whitehaven’s war profiteering is delivering obscene profits. Rather than attempt to wreck more farmland and water for a finite industry, Whitehaven should pivot away from coal and invest in clean energies of the future.
“Whitehaven’s shareholders should demand the company support the communities that have sacrificed so much in order for it to make billions," she said.
“Whitehaven is a single play coal company. Its investors and all those who work for Whitehaven are exposed to the rapidly changing energy market.
“If Whitehaven fails to act now when the going is good, then communities near the company’s coal operations are at risk of massive economic and social disruption due to mass layoffs and stranded assets.”
The call comes after NSW Farmers passed a motion to ban coal mining in the recharge zone of the Great Artesian Basin beneath the Pilliga Forest and surrounding farmland.
However, the NSW Perrottet Government recently granted Whitehaven coal exploration permits under questionable circumstances in an area covering the recharge zone, known as Gorman North.
Narrabri farmer Andrew Mullins, who brought the motion to the conference and who farms above the recharge zone, said it was “ludicrous” Whitehaven was given permission to explore for coal in the area.
“There is no point risking an asset like the Great Artesian Basin for coal mining when it doesn’t have a long term future,” he said.
“Whitehaven’s plans to undermine the Artesian Basin would threaten the recharge zone, and risk depressurising the basin, and contaminating water.
“If that happens I won’t have any water for livestock, I won't have any water for myself or my family. We’re talking about the Great Artesian Basin which covers about a quarter of Australia. It’s an asset that enables the long term future of agriculture and the communities that rely on its water. To threaten such an asset for short term gain is ludicrous.”
Whitehaven’s planned coal projects include:
Vickery: Lifecycle emissions of 369.9Mt of CO2e. Type: Greenfield thermal open cut coal mine. Status: approved, awaiting final investment decision.
Narrabri Underground Stage Three Expansion: The Stage 3 project will mean the mine’s full lifecycle emissions at least triple current levels, generating at least 479.57 Mt of CO2-e. This is roughly equal to Australia’s total 2021 annual greenhouse gas emissions. Type: Expanding underground thermal coal mine. Status: Existing and expansion approved. Currently facing two legal issues:
The Bushfire Survivors for Climate Action’s (BSCA) judicial review of the NSW Government’s decision to approve the project.
The reconsideration request under the EPBC Act lodged by Environmental Justice Australia on behalf of ECOCEQ in relation to the original referral decision on the project.
Winchester South, QLD: 547 million tonnes of GHG over its 28 year lifespan. Type: Greenfield majority thermal coal, open cut mine. 11 mtpa product coal. Status: Currently preparing supplementary EIS documents.