Communities across NSW’s North West have commended eight high school students and their 86 year-old litigation guardian Sister Brigid Arthur, after a ruling was handed down today on their challenge in the Federal Court to Whitehaven Coal’s destructive Vickery Coal Extension Project.
The group argued Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley would breach her duty to protect young people from the devastating impacts of climate change if she approved the project.
In a landmark judgement, the Federal Court today ruled the Minister does owe a ‘duty of care’ to protect Australian children from the effects of catastrophic climate change. The Court drew a direct line between the mining of coal at Vickery and worsening climate change.
The Court did not grant an injunction preventing the Minister from approving the Vickery coal mine extension, but did provide another opportunity for legal arguments about the matter next month.
Boggabri farmer Sally Hunter said the ruling was a very important landmark because the Court had confirmed the Minister had a duty of care to consider the future wellbeing of the students when ruling on fossil fuel projects and that this particular project would worsen climate change.
“Locals in the North West would like to express their gratitude to this group of students and Sister Arthur for trying to stop the project and standing up for the future we all need to farm, to live and to prosper," she said.
“I appreciate these efforts to protect my childrens’ future too. Burning coal from Vickery will worsen all our childrens’ future so we are pleased to stand side by side in this battle against this destructive project.
“Whitehaven’s Vickery Project, if built, would have a devastating impact on heritage, prime farmland, and the groundwater so many depend on, as well as the climate.
“Today’s ruling establishes that the Minister for the Environment has a duty of care to protect these students from the catastrophic consequences of climate change, and that coal mined from Vickery will make a “small but measurable” contribution to global warming.
“If Minister Ley approves this project, she will be harming the futures of Australian children and further contributing to making the worst impacts of global warming inevitable and irreversible. She must refuse the project.
“As well, if Minister Ley approves this project despite today's judgment, she would be locking our region into a future dominated by a finite industry that is already on the way out.
“Workers and families ought to be able to expect the government to deliver jobs that will last beyond a few years. Now is the time to shift to renewables.”
If built, the coal burned from the Vickery Extension Project would result in 100 million tonnes of carbon emissions over the next 25 years.
While Whitehaven refers to the Vickery Project as an “extension”, this is misleading because the original mine was never built - it is an expansion on top of an approved application to build a mine in the same location.
The mine, if built, would be located on the historic property “Kurrumbede” which was the inspiration for several Dorothea Mackellar poems including the famous “My Country”. There are fears blast activity at the mine will harm the historic homestead and outbuildings.
Whitehaven’s long list of crimes includes, but is not limited to: