Lock the Gate Alliance and north west farmers are pleased Whitehaven has been held to account for crimes committed at its Narrabri Underground coal mine but disappointed at the fine which amounts to little more than “chicken scratch” for the company.
The company was convicted on 19 charges for breaches including the construction of unauthorised tracks, drilling of bores in contravention of approval conditions, and failure to rehabilitate drill sites.
The maximum penalty for each of the charges was $1.1M, however Whitehaven was today fined a total of only $372,500 in the NSW Land and Environment Court.
While Lock the Gate Alliance views the figure as a disappointing amount, the fine is the highest given to Whitehaven Coal so far for its numerous environmental breaches at its NSW operations.
Boggabri farmer Sally Hunter said the meagre penalty would do nothing to stop Whitehaven committing similar crimes in the future.
“Whitehaven views this, and the many other fines it has received, as just the cost of doing business in NSW,” she said.
“Whitehaven would spend more than this on beer and Skittles.
“It is a reckless company that shows no respect for the law or the land on which it operates, nor for the communities that are forced to live next to its coal mines.
“However, it is encouraging to see the fines being handed to Whitehaven are increasing, and we hope the company is hit with a much bigger penalty when it is expected to reappear in court for stealing water later this month.”
LTGA thanks the NSW Resources Regulator for taking enforcement of environmental laws seriously and pursuing the investigation which led to this decision today.