Community opposition to coal mining grows, as does risk of looser regulation

Intro

new protest against Whitehaven Coal’s $767m Maules Creek open cut coal mine has sprung up, following the Federal Government granting approval for the project to begin last week. Traditional landowners, Aboriginal Elders, farmers and many other community members are picketing the coal company’s Boggabri office, saying there has been a dearth of community consultation and extremely limited evaluation of the site’s cultural significance, putting 4,000 acres of cultural heritage at risk of destruction. The controversial mine is becoming symbolic of the increasingly lax environmental regulation fossil resource projects are subject to, as well as the government and coal industry’s disregard of climate impacts and community concerns in the rush to exploit Australia’s vast coal reserves.

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MT @kateausburn: @BernardKeane writes, “Double standards as gutless ASIC targets the little guy” http://t.co/zdKj35NHcm #standwithjono

Hash tags in use: #whitehaven #boggabri #standwithjono #jonathanmoylan

Key Points

  • Whitehaven Coal’s Maules Creek open cut coal mine has been approved by the federal Government, but it has done so without proper community consultation, bringing accusations that it has disrespected traditional owners and disregarded culturally significant sites. 4,000 acres of cultural heritage including forest, artefacts, food sources and more are at risk of destruction if the mine goes ahead.
  • The Traditional owners protest against Whitehaven Coal is the latest in a growing trend, highlighted in spectacular fashion in January when anti-coal campaigner Jonathan Moylan sent the company’s share price plummeting temporarily after issuing a fake press release saying investors had pulled out of the project on ethical concerns. Jonathan has now been charged and is facing ten years in prison and a half million-dollar fine. The Australian Securities and Investment Commission has been accused of picking on the little guy as it is too scared and incompetent to take on big companies.
  • Whitehaven’s Maules Creek mine is one of 91 Australian coal projects that cannot go ahead if we are to tackle greenhouse gas emissions and have a reasonable chance of keeping the average global temperature rise below 2degC.

Background

Community opposition against Whitehaven Coal has continued to grow, with Traditional landowners protesting the company’s controversial Maules Creek Coal Mine this week.

Earlier this year, the company was the target of a fake press release by anti-coal campaigner Jonathan Moylan that temporarily wiped more than $314 million off its share price, and put Moylan at risk of ten years in prison and a half million-dollar fine. Moylan was charged last week with breaching the Corporations Act.

Last week the Federal Government gave Whitehaven approval to begin construction on the $767m Maules Creek Project in the Gunnedah Basin – one of the largest open-cut operations in NSW which could almost double the company’s production capacity. This has sparked new protests, with over 50 Aboriginal workers, community members, farmers and families now picketing Whitehaven Coal near Gunnedah, saying the company has not properly consulted with the community, lied to Elders, and has been disrespectful to the cultural heritage process.

Traditional Owners say Whitehaven has failed to conduct rigorous cultural heritage surveys and will clear more than 4,000 acres of culturally significant forest, artefacts and values that have not been assessed yet. Cultural heritage sites, food sources, and totems are at risk of permanent destruction by the planned mine.

Meanwhile, The Conversation has factchecked Tony Abbott’s claim – that regulatory approval for new mines has skyrocketed to more than three years from less than 12 months, leading to investors fleeing the country – and declared it to be false. His claim rests on a single project in NSW where justifiable delays happened due to environmental concerns, making his promise to “streamline”, or in other words, weaken environmental approval processes more a risk to environmental and community than a lightened burden on business. This could include removing the Federal Government from the approvals process and leaving it up to State Governments alone.

One potential loss on this front could be the only recently passed amendment to the Environment Protection Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act), which has finally brought CSG and coal mining’s impact on water under national control. More generally what is at risk is an even more rushed approvals process, threatening the local environment, steamrolling local communities, as has been seen in Queensland under Premier Campbell Newman and NSW at Maules Creek, and driving runaway climate change globally.

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  • Gomeroi workers and supporters protest Whitehaven Coal 123
  • Whitehaven coal truck sign
  • Whitehaven coal train

Key quotes

“The Maules Creek mine will clear more than 4,000 acres of culturally significant forest, artefacts and cultural values that we have not even been allowed to assess properly yet. We have only been able to walk 0.05% of the mine site. The forest contains cultural heritage sites, food sources, and totems of our people, and most of them will be permanently destroyed by the planned mine. There hasn’t been a proper consultation process, the management plan is flawed and we don’t believe that our people have been treated with proper respect or that our concerns about the destruction of cultural heritage have been addressed.” Gomeroi Traditional Owner Stephen Talbot.

“We are determined to fight this Maules Creek mine until they show respect to the Gomeroi people and our culture. Whitehaven have shown no respect for Aboriginal cultural heritage or our people. Even today, they lied to our Elders about work progress. We are seeking an urgent intervention to stop all works until the mine management comes to the table to discuss and rectify our concerns and comes to a mutually acceptable resolution on the management and conservation of our culture and heritage.” Gomeroi Traditional Owner Stephen Talbot.

“Whether you agree with his actions or not, Mr Moylan’s intent was obviously just to tell the world about the plight of the people and environments at risk from this massive coal mine. We are asking ASIC to reconsider their decision and withdraw the prosecution – the penalty is clearly disproportionate to the offence and Mr Moylan has apologised to anyone affected by his actions.” Lock the Gate  Alliance president Drew Hutton.

“The [Australian Securities and Investment Commission] is too scared and incompetent to take on large companies, but has come down hard on the man who sent out a fake press release to expose the stupidity of finance journalists. It is unable or unwilling to do its job of corporate regulation properly, particularly when faced with having to go after big companies that might have the gall to fight back.” Crikey journalist Bernard Keane.

Related Tree Alerts

More Tweets

  • RT @NurseNelleB: The students of sustainability stand with Jonathan Moylan @greensjeremy http://t.co/5BL8mzu7Of
  • RT @smlowc: Protesters burn the Maules Creek Aboriginal Archaeology and Cultural Heritage management plan at #Boggabri. http://t.co/JKTCgp9wpU
  • RT @broomstick33: Traditional owners picket Whitehaven Coal mine site http://t.co/9UijHdpazy  via @guardian
  • MT @CFMEU_CG: Tony Abbott helping out his mining mates by squibbing about project approvals. Check out the FACTS http://t.co/h0Lb6H6xWs
  • RT @MaulesCreek: @MaulesCreek Mine: Is it in Public Interest? @ecolarge pull apart the myth making behind mining industry economics. http://t.co/Dw73UXm8Qz
  • RT @CounterActOz: great article from @BernardKeane on double standards of #ASIC in prosecuting #JonathanMoylan http://t.co/CP5t632uwA #standwithjono #quitcoal