The land owned by Whitehaven Coal in north west NSW is nearing the size of the country of Singapore, new mapping from Lock the Gate Alliance reveals.
The release of the mapping comes as day one of the Independent Planning Commission's public hearing into the company’s deeply controversial Vickery Project, near Boggabri, gets underway today.
LTGA has compiled a briefing paper which reveals Whitehaven has acquired more than 61,050 ha of land over 471 freehold titles – a land area fast approaching the size of Singapore (72,150 ha), or roughly twice the size of Malta (31,600 ha).
The briefing paper also reveals that in the north west, a bird could fly for 60km, without leaving airspace above Whitehaven owned land. At least 90 family farms have been bought out, with many leaving the region permanently.
This family farming land has been purchased as biodiversity offsets, for mine infrastructure and as a buffer zone to protect neighbours from air and noise pollution. Some were purchased through the mandated and highly controversial “Voluntary Land Acquisition and Mitigation Policy” (VLAMP).
Whitehaven currently operates four mines across the north west, with Vickery to become its fifth if approved and built.
Boggabri farmer Pat Murphy said Whitehaven’s relentless expansion under the VLAMP had transformed Boggabri from a tight-knit farming community into an industrial mining support hub.
“We have reached saturation level from the impacts of mining in our area and cannot afford another greenfield mega-mine,” he said.
“We in the bush are being given an impossible choice by the government and Whitehaven: do we sell up and leave the communities we love and our families love, or do we live with unbearable and unhealthy noise and dust from a coal mine next door?
“So much good quality farming country and water has been lost to this mining company at a time when we should be doing all we can to ensure the security of food and fibre production in this country.
“We are still enduring the impacts of one of the worst droughts to ever hit this region, yet Whitehaven - a rogue operator that has been fined for countless breaches - wants to open up yet another coal mine at Vickery and further deplete our water.”
Lock the Gate NSW spokesperson Georgina Woods urged the IPC to rule against the Vickery project.
“The Vickery coal mine would see the Boggabri farming community emptied as so many Hunter Valley communities have been. We’ve been concerned for years about the social damage being inflicted by the VLAMP policy and that damage is evident in Boggabri already,” she said.
“Whitehaven has deferred any planned investment in Vickery until at least next year. The market for coal is highly uncertain, but the market for sustainable food and fibre will never decline.
“New South Wales cannot afford to sacrifice community, agriculture, the environment, and rich cultural heritage for the sake of a temporary coal mine and we strongly urge the Independent Planning Commission to stop this mine.”