Whitehaven condemned for outbidding farmers for water again

Published: August 19, 2019

Whitehaven Coal has again outbid a local farmer to secure precious water for its Maules Creek coal mine during a time of unprecedented drought in NSW’s north west.

Earlier this month, Maules Creek mine paid $5,450/ML for groundwater in Zone 5 of the Namoi alluvial water sharing plan. This follows the company’s purchase earlier this year of another licence in the same zone for $5,100 per ML, and other purchases of water from Zones 4 and 11.

In these recent cases, farmers were among the losing bidders.

The purchase came just before Whitehaven announced another record profit on Thursday, with its full-year underlying net profit having increased 7.7 per cent to $564.9 million.

Boggabri farmer David Watt said it was not clear why the mining company required so much water, because Whitehaven was not originally expected to take water directly out of Upper Namoi Zones 4, 5, or 11 groundwater systems, as per its environmental assessment.  

“Yet here it is, creating conflict with farmers because it is expanding its water take dramatically at a time when drought is ravaging the country,” he said.

“There is a lot of pressure on water resources at the moment and farmers just don't stand a chance.

“If the mine is now buying more and more Upper Namoi Zone 4, 5 and 11 water licences, this must mean the water demand of the mine is larger than was anticipated.”

Mr Watt said the purchase of the water further alienated Whitehaven, which also wants to expand its Vickery Mine near Boggabri, from the community.

“This company is operating without a social licence,” he said.

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