Lock the Gate Alliance and locals impacted by Whitehaven Coal's damaging projects in NSW's north west have welcomed revelations the state's Environment Protection Authority is investigating the company for the alleged illegal burial of giant machinery tyres at some of its mine sites.
Whitehaven recently received approval to bury hundreds of giant tyres at its Werris Creek and Tarrawonga mine sites, however, according to the company's own documents, it appears tyres may have been buried at the sites long before the company received official approval.
Despite the Department of Planning having only last month (13 May) approved the plan by Whitehaven to bury the tyres, Whitehaven’s own Annual Review for Tarrawonga states tyre disposal has been taking place on site since at least 2014/15.
Similarly, the company appears to have been illegally burying tyres at its Maules Creek coal mine site, despite being explicitly refused permission to do so by the Environment Protection Agency.
The EPA knocked back a proposed amendment by Whitehaven to bury its giant tyres at Maules Creek in 2019.
However, Whitehaven’s Maules Creek Mining Operations Plan states that already “end of life mine tyres are also collected, recorded and placed within the overburden emplacement at a suitable depth to ensure appropriate coverage under the final landform.”
Lock the Gate Alliance says this is appeared to be another example of Whitehaven breaking the law at its mine sites and then seeking approval for the unlawful activity after the fact.
The Alliance has now written to the NSW Planning, Industry, and Mines Department and the Environment Protection Agency (EPA), calling for Whitehaven to be prosecuted for again flagrantly violating NSW environment law.
Maules Creek resident Ros Druce said, “I'm really pleased the EPA is taking this seriously and investigating the tyre burials in this district.
"I hope that the EPA takes into account the cumulative effect of tyre brial in the Leard State Forest - these tyres are buried deep underground and could have a disastrous impact on our groundwater and local environment."
LTGA NSW spokesperson Georgina Woods said the alleged behaviour was typical of repeat offender Whitehaven.
“Whitehaven is renowned for breaching its environmental approvals first, and asking for those approvals to be modified to suit its polluting behaviour later,” she said.
“The Maules Creek and wider Namoi community has fought long and hard to uncover Whitehaven’s long list of environmental crimes.
“It’s time the NSW Berejiklian Government got serious with Whitehaven and threw the book at this recalcitrant company."
Background: For a full list of Whitehaven's penalties, click here.