PROTESTERS have ramped up their campaign against Whitehaven Coal’s plans to bulldoze the Leard State Forest through the winter months when native animals are at their most vulnerable.
Representatives from the Leard Forest Alliance and Greenpeace interrupted the company’s tree-clearing activities for a third day running yesterday as calls for the state government to intervene grew louder.
Last week The Leader reported Whitehaven Coal, which is constructing a $767 million open-cut coalmine at Maules Creek, had received approval from the Department of Planning and Environment to log during winter.
Environmentalists argue the decision will see the slaughter of many of the forest’s fauna, such as bats and owls, that hibernate during the colder months and are less likely to be able to flee the bulldozers.
Yesterday, to prevent Whitehaven Coal conducting its clearing, protester Papatya Danis, 24, commenced a tree sit and later two protesters locked themselves onto machinery. They were joined by more activists throughout the day.
Maules Creek resident Ros Druce, of the Leard Forest Alliance, said: “We are here because of a comprehensive failure across government to uphold any standard of environmental protection in Leard State Forest.
“Over 150 people have been arrested trying to stop this terrible mine in the last four months because the rules have been bent to breaking point for Whitehaven Coal and we’re fed up with it.”
Meanwhile, the Baird government is losing patience with Whitehaven Coal and Idemitsu Australia Resources over delays in submitting environment plans for the forest, even as extensive tree clearing continues. Earlier this year the two companies were granted an extension on a deadline to submit a regional biodiversity strategy for the forest, much of which will be destroyed by the open-cut mines.
NSW Environment Minister Rob Stokes has told Fairfax Media he is “concerned” about the delays in the companies lodging the submission.
“This strategy is required to ensure that sufficient offsets are provided to address unavoidable impacts,” he said.
“It is a reasonable community expectation that consent approvals, including timeframes, will be fully complied with by consent holders.”
A Whitehaven Coal spokesman said any suggestion the company was dragging its feet was “simplistic”, adding it was critical that all stakeholders were satisfied the final document “reflects the original intent”.