ENVIRONMENTAL activists have criticised Whitehaven for preparing to expand its Maules Creek mine, but the company says it’s doing everything by the book.
Lock the Gate Alliance said Whitehaven and Idemitsu were required to collaborate on a Leard Forest precinct Regional Biodiversity Offset Strategy (RBOS), which would mitigate the environmental impact of the mines of the surrounding area.
But Whitehaven said the RBOS was a process co-ordinated by the NSW Department of Planning and Environment.
“Clearing activity is managed under the Biodiversity Management Plan (BMP) and has no relationship to what is essentially a process to develop a co-ordinated regional environmental strategy for offsetting responsibilities of the three contiguous mines,” a Whitehaven spokesperson said.
“The process to develop a Regional Biodiversity Offset Strategy and the implementation of the BMP for Maules Creek are entirely separate matters.”
Lock the Gate said the RBOS should have been completed two years ago.
A Department of Planning and Environment spokesperson said an independent ecologist had been engaged to ensure the RBOS was completed by April.
“The delays are due to complex consultation between a number of state and commonwealth agencies, as well as the companies required to finalise the strategy,” the spokesperson said.
Whitehaven said it would clear further vegetation this month, consistent with the site’s BMP.
“This next phase of clearing is fully approved and will be conducted with the on-site participation of the relevant NSW government authorities,” the Whitehaven spokesperson said. “Like past clearing at the site, it will take place within a strict environmental management framework aided by a total of 28 ecologists, who will monitor and supervise clearing activity to ensure compliance with the approved BMP.”
Ecologist Phil Spark said much of the Leard Forest had already been lost to clearing.
“It’s just as we feared. We have lost so much of the beautiful Leard Forest, and the few controls that were imposed on Whitehaven by the government to mitigate the long-term consequences of losing so much good-quality, critically endangered woodland and so much wildlife habitat are not being implemented,” Mr Spark said.
“The NSW government has to stop this craven failure to uphold the very minimal protections that exist for biodiversity that is cleared for coal mining.”
The Department of Planning and Environment spokesperson said Whitehaven had been issued with two fines for non-compliances with its project approval at Maules Creek.
“The department will continue to closely monitoring compliance with the measures set out in (the BMP) during the upcoming clearing window,” they said.