Lock the Gate Alliance will make an emergency submission to the NSW Independent Planning Commission in relation to Whitehaven Coal’s Vickery proposal, urging the authority to take into account 16 new charges levelled at the company today.
The NSW Resources Regulator this morning announced it would prosecute Whitehaven subsidiaries Narrabri Coal Pty Ltd and Narrabri Coal Operations Pty Ltd in the NSW Land and Environment Court for a string of alleged breaches of the state’s mining laws.
The regulator alleges the company has failed to rehabilitate drill sites, illegally drilled boreholes, and built unauthorised tracks at its Narrabri underground coal mine.
Boggabri farmer Sally Hunter said the IPC should take this latest mark against Whitehaven into account when assessing the company’s Vickery proposal. A decision on Vickery is expected from the IPC tomorrow (August 12) at the earliest.
“Whitehaven has been charged with so many offences and fined so many times for breaking NSW law with the mines it currently has - it should not be given the opportunity to do more harm with a new mine,” she said.
“Whitehaven is a terrible corporate citizen and has no social licence left in the north west. It has been fined for allowing toxic blast fumes to drift over neighbouring properties, polluting air and water, illegal dumping of waste, stealing surface water, illegal clearing of bushland, and worker safety breaches.
“Whitehaven has already been taken to court five times, once by the EPA, once by Maules Creek Community Council, and currently by the Resources Access Regulator over alleged water theft, the Resources Regulator for workplace safety breaches, and South East Forest Rescue over its unfulfilled biodiversity offset obligations.
“This latest announcement makes it the sixth time Whitehaven has been taken to court for bad behaviour at its north west coal mines.”
Recently, mapping was released showing Whitehaven owns 61,050 ha of land in the north west - equivalent to nearly double the size of Malta (31,600 ha).
“Whitehaven has expanded across the north west like an insidious disease, buying up properties and water, and destroying the social fabric of our communities,” said Mrs Hunter.
“We desperately need the IPC to take all this into account and reject this company’s Vickery Coal Mine proposal.”
Whitehaven plans to mine 10 million tonnes per annum of thermal coal at Vickery.
The company would dig up 1,284 hectares of land - much of it either fertile farmland or remnant woodland - for the project.
Serious questions remain about how the mine will supply the up to 1,750 megalitres of water it will consume annually. As outlined by the Department of Planning in its final assessment report landholders are seriously concerned that in times of prolonged drought, the company does not have enough water to run its operations. This will again lead to it buying up further agricultural water licences or breaching environmental laws to take water unlawfully, as Whitehaven is alleged to have done at the nearby Maules Creek mine.
The Vickery mine would be located close to the property and homestead “Kurrumbede” which was the inspiration for several Dorothea Mackellar poems including the famous ‘My Country’. There are fears blast activity at the mine will harm the historic homestead and outbuildings.