Lock the Gate Alliance welcomes a decision by the NSW Resources Regulator to proceed with legal action against Whitehaven Coal after two of its subsidiaries attempted to escape prosecution - in part by offering to donate $50,000 to the NSW Minerals Council.
In August this year, the Regulator 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 failed to rehabilitate drill sites, illegally drilled boreholes, and built unauthorised tracks at its Narrabri underground coal mine.
In response, Whitehaven attempted to have the case dropped by submitting an “enforceable undertaking” which included offering a $50,000 donation to the NSW Minerals Council “to fund further guidance on leading practice in exploration”.
However, the Resources Regulator today announced it had rejected Whitehaven’s offer, and took particular issue with the company’s proposal to offer $50,000 to the NSW Minerals Council, stating:
“There is no specific detail or performance criteria provided in the undertaking (other than the formation of a working group) that can be monitored to ensure compliance and the delivery of a tangible product. I am further of the view that the community would be rightly concerned with a project that involves payment to an industry advocacy group.”
The court matter will now be heard this Friday, December 11.
Boggabri farmer Sally Hunter said she was pleased the Regulator had knocked back Whitehaven’s proposal.
“Whitehaven is a repeat offender with a rap sheet a mile long and the company simply doesn’t deserve any more chances,” she said.
“It seems breaking the law, copping a minor fine and continuing on as it likes, is just Whitehaven’s normal mode of operating.
“It’s a sad joke that Whitehaven’s idea of an enforceable undertaking is to pay money to its own industry body, who have the led the charge in NSW to weaken controls on mining. It reveals Whitehaven's contempt for the law.
“It is such a relief to hear that the Resources Regulator is willing to stand up to this company in a court of law.
“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, illegally dumping waste, illegally clearing bushland, and committing worker safety breaches.
“This latest matter also makes it the sixth time Whitehaven has been taken to court over issues at its north west coal mines, and it remains under investigation for a host of other incidents.
“Sadly, the NSW Government continues to allow this terrible corporate citizen to expand in the north west, with the IPC recently approving its Vickery coal mine following a recommendation from the Planning Department that the expansion go ahead.
“The NSW Government must find some courage, act in the public interest, and remove Whitehaven’s right to operate in the state by officially stripping the company of its “fit and proper” classification under NSW mining law.”