In what environmentalists are calling a small victory, the NSW government has rejected Whitehaven’s request to clear a forest corridor at its Maules Creek coal mine.
Whitehaven has a designated land clearing window between mid-February to the end of April – however, the company can apply to carry out “limited clearing in exceptional circumstances”.
After learning of Whitehaven had applied to the NSW government to conduct land clearing outside of the annual window, the Maules Creek Community Council (MCCC) wrote to the Department of Planning and Environment, calling on the government to knock back the request.
MCCC spokeswoman Ros Druce the designated clearing window was in place to prevent vulnerable fauna from being harmed or killed due to hibernation, nesting or raising their young.
“We do not believe that clearing 11.9 hectares of a crucial element of the biodiversity corridor can be considered in anyway limited, nor do we consider the circumstances to be exceptional,” Ms Druce said.
In a letter to MCCC, the Department of Planning and Environment said it consider the request, but rejected it due to the “extent of the clearing and the potential impacts on fauna, particularly during the winter period”.
While the nature corridor may have been saved for now, it could be earmarked for clearing come February.
The department said it was important to note Whitehaven Coal had approval to clear the area under its Biodiversity Management Plan, and “the area in question does not form part of the biodiversity offset strategy for the mine”.
Whitehaven Coal echoed the government’s point and a company spokesperson reiterated Whitehaven does have the power to clear the nature strip during the designated clearing period.
“Completely contrary to what Ms Druce asserts, the Department of Planning and Environment also notes that the area in question does not form part of the biodiversity offset strategy for the mine,” the Whitehaven spokesperson said.
“The letter could not be clearer.”