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Secrecy surrounds Maules Creek project biodiversity offsets review

A crucial review of Whitehaven Coal’s biodiversity offsets for their controversial Maules Creek coal mine project should be made public immediately, according to an environment group that has alleged the offset commitments made by the company were based on false information. 

The Northern Inland Council for the Environment says it is a condition of Whitehaven’s approval for the mine that the biodiversity offsets be subject to independent review to be completed and lodged by 30 December 2013. It also required that the review be published on the company website but to date this report is not available.

Phil Spark, spokesperson for the Northern Inland Council for the Environment, said, “This document will corroborate our allegations that Whitehaven Coal used false and misleading information to secure their approval for this mine. We know that the independent review has been lodged. We are calling for it to be made immediately available to the public and for Environment Minister Greg Hunt to revoke the approval if it is shown that the company misled the Government and the community to secure approval for this mine”.

Maules Creek farmer, Phil Laird said, “We are being kept in the dark by the Federal Government about action they are taking on the evidence that we provided of alleged false and misleading information used to get the mine approved.

“There should be no mine construction until the appropriateness of the biodiversity offsets can be established, and if it is found that Whitehaven lied, the approval should be revoked.”

In January 2013, an ecologist’s report found that the Whitehaven Coal biodiversity offsets package did not meet the quantity and quality requirements set down by the Federal Department of Environment’s offsets policy. Based on this evidence, the then Minister, Tony Burke, launched a federal investigation into the allegations that false and misleading information was provided for the purpose of obtaining the approval. Details of the investigation have not been made public.

Phil Laird said, “If the report findings support our allegations, Greg Hunt needs to make an example of Whitehaven Coal to ensure that coal companies do not get the message that you can lie to get approval for a mine, and do damage to the environment with no consequences.

Phil Spark concluded, “Bulldozers are preparing to start clearing the forest – a critically endangered ecological community. We are talking about the destruction of a public forest.”

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