Protesters urged Japanese import/export conglomerate Itochu Corporation against investing in Whitehaven Coal. Coral Wynter reports.
Maules Creek coal mine
Activists have called for an independent inquiry into the Maules Creek coalmine in north-west NSW and its impact on the surrounding farming community after documents obtained by Environmental Justice Australia (EJA) revealed a litany of environmental licence breaches over the past six years.
EJA applied to access documents known as annual returns, which detail breaches or "non-compliance with [environmental] licence", through the Government Information (Public Access) Act. But Whitehaven Coal, which owns the Maules Creek mine, fought them all the way.
If we apply for a loan, we are subject to financial interrogation and if it looks like we will not be able to repay it the lender will not take the risk. It is reasonable to assume the same strict conditions apply when mining companies wish to buy or lease our land.
When then-Minister for the Environment and Water Tony Burke signed over more than 1500 hectares of native vegetation, including endangered woodlands, to Whitehaven Coal in 2013, he did so amid contention and uncertainty. It would not go unchallenged.
Today, a parapet of accumulated earth protrudes from the Leard State Forest. The Maules Creek open-cut coalmine is now fully operational. But when exploitation ceases, the crater left in the mine's place will not be filled for centuries.
About 250 people gathered at the Leard State Forest in northern NSW from February 13 and 18 to stop Whitehaven Coal clearing the forest to make way for its proposed Maules Creek coalmine.