Aug 7 2014
Below is a excerpt from a report provided to the Maules Creek Coal Community Consultative Committee regarding a proposed amendment to the Maules Creek Coal Mine Biodiversity Management Plan dated 9th July 2014 regarding the “Timing of Clearing”. Full Report here.
Photos of Whitehaven Clearing Campaign 12.6.2014
MCCC is grateful for the opportunity to comment on Whitehaven Coal’s proposed Biodiversity Management Plan dated 9 July 2014 (Proposed BMP) for the Maules Creek Coal Project. For the purpose of this brief comment MCCC focussed on section 5.4 of the Proposed BMP relating to the timing of clearing, which reads:
5.4 Timing of Clearing
Subject to two exceptions, clearing of native vegetation will be undertaken in late summer and early autumn (that is, between 1 January and 30 April of each year in which clearing is carried out) in order to avoid key breeding or hibernation seasons for threatened bat and bird species known to reside in the Leard State Forest.
The two exceptions are as follows:
- Clearing of up to 163 ha of native vegetation is permitted between 1 November and 31 December 2014. This will ensure that as at 31 December 2014, there will be a sufficient area for coal extraction for six months (that is, for the period up to 30 June 2015); and
- Minor clearing of native vegetation (less than 10 ha) is permissible outside of the period between 1 January and 30 April with the written consent of the Secretary of DP&E. Consent would only be sought in special circumstances where there is a management or environmental reason justifying immediate minor clearance of an additional area.
Where clearing is carried out pursuant to these exceptions, fauna protection measures will be developed and implemented as appropriate.
Other land disturbance activities (such as mulching, topsoil removal and the removal of regrowth in previously cleared areas) may occur year round.
MCCC sought expert ecological opinion on the proposed condition above. That expert opinion is contained in this comment.
MCCC is gravely concerned about the impacts that clearing in spring and summer 2014 will have on the fauna known and likely to occur on the project site. The requirement not to clear during this period was designed and imposed to protect the particular relevant fauna. The BMP of June 2013 required that clearing predominantly be undertaken in late summer, early autumn. MCCC contends that the most appropriate interpretation of late summer to early autumn is beginning February to end April.
The Leard State Forest is a biodiversity hotspot that contains many species of fauna including threatened and endangered species of birds, reptiles and micro bats. These species are susceptible to being disturbed during periods of hibernation and breeding that occur over winter, spring and early summer.
The project approval has made extensive use of environmental offsets to protect the species within the project boundary. Hibernating or breeding animals will be unable to move away from the bulldozers or seek these offset refuges during the excluded period of winter spring and early summer which was the intended purpose of excluding such periods.
The two expert opinions received and summarised below, are that there will be serious detrimental impacts to the threatened birds and micro bat species contained within the forest under the terms of the Proposed BMP.
MCCC also contends that condition 5.4 of the Proposed BMP is not compliant with the Project Approval in that there are no express fauna protection measures proposed regarding when clearing does take place under the 2 exceptions sought. The BMP as anticipated under condition 52 of the Project Approval must include detailed description of the measures that would be implemented including the procedures to be implemented for… minimising the impacts on fauna on the site.
MCCC is of the understanding that revisions to the BMP are required to improve environmental outcomes and performance, in accordance with the Project Approval. MCCC contends, based on the expert opinions received, that the Proposed BMP, particularly in relation to the timing of clearing, does not improve environmental outcomes or environmental performance and that the proposed amendment will negatively impact on the relevant species. The primary purpose of clearing in the spring and summer period of 2014 is to facilitate Whitehaven’s desired schedule of mining and does not go to the comprehensive and responsible management of the Maules Creek Coal Project which involves the requirement to manage the biodiversity including minimise the impacts on fauna of the site within the Leard State Forest for the 22 year life of the project.