A GROUP of Gomeroi people have accused Whitehaven Coal of treating them with “disrespect and contempt” during a protest in Boggabri yesterday.
The elders and traditional owners claim the company is denying them access to the Maules Creek coalmine site to salvage cultural heritage artefacts.
Whitehaven Coal vehemently denies the allegations and maintains the disgruntled protesters’ views are not representative of the entire indigenous community.
Traditional owner Dolly Talbot said: “Ancestors of mine are buried in this area. Whitehaven Coal won’t even allow our elders and community to access our burial sites for ceremony and to collect cultural materials of importance.
“We are not trying to stop the mine. We just want to protect our culture. But we will fight for it and today’s protest will not be the last if our people cannot take care of these sites.”
Whitehaven Coal spokesman Jamie Frankcombe said the company had worked for years with several groups to ensure the process was handled sensitively.
“With a couple of the groups we have been able to get agreement that the work that has been done on stage one ... has been done to their satisfaction and they’ve signed off on that,” he said.
“That has now been submitted as a report to the NSW Department of Planning and Infrastructure and they’ve come back and advised us that they’re entirely satisfied Whitehaven is compliant with its obligations.”