Coal Rocks On, Features

Whitehaven’s mines out of favour

Fossil Fool Bulletin • 7 January 2020

Farmers have welcomed a scathing Narrabri Council report about Whitehaven’s destructive Vickery coal mine planned near Boggabri, which further proves the project has little support locally.

The council report states, “the Proponent has not demonstrated that the Vickery Project will promote the social and economic welfare of Boggabri and the wider Narrabri Shire nor that it has sufficiently addressed the relevant economic, environmental and social considerations in its proposal.”

As a result of the report, Narrabri Shire councillors voted 5-1 in mid-December to inform the NSW Government and Independent Planning Commission that they did not support the Vickery Project.

The report queries the reliability of Whitehaven’s projected jobs numbers and notes the lack of trust in the company from the local community at Boggabri.

It also raises concerns about the local water market dominance of Whitehaven’s Maules Creek coal mine, and how the impact of water depletion and agricultural displacement will impact future generations.

Boggabri farmer Sally Hunter said, “We’re grateful to the council for taking seriously the social damage inflicted by large mining developments and for listening to the local community which has no trust in Whitehaven and does not want this coal mine.

“We’ve seen how Whitehaven Coal operates its Maules Creek mine like a parasite eating up land and water and draining the lifeblood of our communities. We’ve seen the contempt with which the local people are treated. We’re not prepared to let our communities be chewed up and ruined by another coal mine.”

In April 2019, the Independent Planning Commission published an “Issues Report” about the project also citing its impact on social cohesion and intergenerational equity. The Vickery coal mine is currently being considered by the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment before being returned to the Independent Planning Commission for consideration, likely in the new year.

In related news, Lock the Gate Alliance has slammed NSW mining compliance framework as “impotent” after Whitehaven Coal lodged a modification application for its Maules Creek coal mine apparently to get approval for two already-built and highly contentious water pipelines.

Whitehaven’s pipeline ticked off

“This decision by Whitehaven Coal to lodge two applications to modify its development consent for the controversial Maules Creek coal mine seems to be an admission by the company that it did not have approval for construction in the first place,” said Alliance spokesperson Georgina Woods.

“The pipelines are already carrying water sourced from nearby farms – outside the mine’s approved operation area – to run Whitehaven’s parched coal mine. This is happening while farmers in the district continue to suffer due to the extreme drought.”

Notice was posted on December 21 by the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment of two applications by Whitehaven to modify its approval at Maules Creek. One concerns a “Roma and Brighton Water Pipeline” and the other an “Olivedene Water Pipeline.”

Lock the Gate Alliance wrote to the Department of Planning a month ago to alert it that the two pipelines were under construction in breach of the company’s development approval. No substantial response has been received from the Department, but Lock the Gate understands that a compliance investigation is underway.

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