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Shenhua and other coal projects greenlighted to clear thousands of hectares of critically endangered bush

Analysis by the Lock the Gate Alliance released today has shown an area of native vegetation greater than the size of Royal National Park south of Sydney has been approved for clearing in the Hunter Valley and Gunnedah Basin since 2010.

The report, Greg Hunt, Shenhua and the Box-Gum Bungle, estimates that more than 17,892 hectares (ha) of native vegetation, including critically endangered areas, have been approved for clearing by coal mining projects in the two agricultural regions in the past five years.

Key findings of the report are that:

  • An estimated 6,256 ha of the area approved for clearing is critically endangered Box-Gum Grassy Woodland, one of the most threatened ecosystems in Australia.
  • The Federal Government approval for Shenhua’s Watermark coal project gives the green light to clear 937 ha of native vegetation, of which 738 ha is endangered Box-Gum Grassy Woodland
  • Clearing by farmers of endangered Box-Gum Grassy Woodland in good condition is strictly prohibited by the NSW vegetation laws, but no such laws apply to mining projects.

"This analysis reveals for the first time that the cumulative impact of clearing of native vegetation and endangered Box-Gum Grassy Woodland for coal mines is severe, environmentally damaging and markedly inconsistent with constraints on agricultural clearing,” said Lock the Gate Alliance spokesperson Carmel Flint today.

"Box-Gum Grassy Woodland is important breeding and foraging habitat for woodland animals such as Regent Honeyeaters, Squirrel Gliders and Superb Parrots.

"It’s a community of plants and animals that has been pushed to the brink in recent years and these last stands in NSW are vitally important on a national level.

"What we’re seeing yet again is governments giving special treatment for the interests of mining over those of precious places, land and water resources.

"Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt claims his hands were tied on the Shenhua mine approval, and he was without power to reject the mine. Nothing could be further from the truth.

"The Minister should be considering the full cumulative impacts of clearing approved by him on critically endangered species such as the Box-Gum Grassy Woodland.

"The Minister had wide powers to reject the Shenhua Watermark coal project, given that mine itself will clear 738 hectares of this critically endangered community.

"The planning system is broken when it comes to coal mine assessments. We urgently need stronger laws and political leaders who can act in the best interests of our land and rural communities, not those of the mining industry," she said.

 To read the full report, click here.

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