Whitehaven has foolishly doubled down on new thermal coal production at its Vickery project at a time when clever companies are diversifying away from fossil fuels in line with global trends, say mine opponents.
As part of its quarterly report, Whitehaven’s board today “approved commencement of early mining of Vickery coal” while a "decision around further investment and commencement of full scale operations at Vickery will be considered by the Board later this calendar year".
The decision comes nearly two years after eight young people and an octogenarian nun took Whitehaven to court seeking an injunction over the project. While Judge Mordecai Bromberg ruled against the injunction, he found the country’s environment minister had a “duty of care” to protect young people from the climate crisis when considering projects like Vickery.
However, then Environment Minister Sussan Ley successfully appealed that ruling last year.
Whitehaven’s brazen decision to build a brand new coal mine also comes two years after the International Energy Agency declared that no new oil, coal or gas projects can be developed anywhere in the world if humanity is to meet the Paris Agreement’s 1.5 degree temperature goal.
Local farmer Sally Hunter, who lives 30kms from the Vickery site, said even early stage work at Vickery would have a devastating impact on the local community, environment, and heritage sites.
“Blasting from the mine will deliver a death by one thousand vibrations to the nearby Kurrembede Homestead, which was at one time home of celebrated Australian poet Dorothea Mackellar and the likely inspiration for her poem “My Country”,” she said.
“Whitehaven’s Vickery coal mine also threatens a stretch of the Namoi River where champion Australian swimmer Andrew “Boy” Charlton famously trained while working as a station hand on Kurrembede.
“In the wake of the floods and droughts this region has endured - with the worst yet to come as climate change worsens - building a new coal mine at Vickery is a truly radical, risky and reckless act of environmental vandalism by Whitehaven Coal.
“The decision to build this thermal mine will also further reduce the Namoi Valley’s economic diversity and resilience at a time when we should be doing all we can to transition away from fossil fuels. Whitehaven’s pig-headed pursuit of coal is like investing in candlesticks as electrification swept the globe at the end of the 19th century.
“If Whitehaven’s management were wise, they would reinvest the sickening profits they’ve made thanks to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine into sustainable, clean energy industries of the future.
"Whitehaven might be reporting record profits at the moment, but this is the coal sector’s swan song, and it’s about to dive.”