Aug 8 2017
Jul 11 2017
The Maules Creek Community Council (MCCC) has welcomed a Department of Planning and Environment decision to prevent Whitehaven coal’s Maules Creek coal mine from clearing in winter a section of the Travelling Stock Route (TSR) that is adjacent to the Leard State Forest.
“The designated clearing window between 15 February and 30 April is in place to prevent vulnerable fauna from being harmed or killed due to hibernation, nesting or raising young.” said Ros Druce.
“The company had plans to renege on its 2014 undertaking and sought permission to carry out ‘limited’ clearing of 11 Ha of native vegetation in ‘exceptional’ circumstances outside the mandated clearing window.
The 2014 undertaking by Whitehaven was agreed to by the MCCC and the Dept of Planning. The Dept said about the undertaking on the 23.10.2014:
“The Department has welcomed the mining company’s changes to the (environmental) plan, which incorporate advice from the Office of Environment and Heritage to strengthen environmental protections and address community concerns.”
The decision to prevent Winter Clearing follows an Independent Audit1 which shows that Whitehaven coal was not compliant with 61 conditions of its planning and environmental approvals.
“This is a warning to residents who live near the proposed Vickery coal mine. Years after the decision to go ahead, the company is still not compliant with the so-called ‘strict conditions’ and it is constantly working to water them down.
“The problem for the impacted community is that it is like living on shifting sands. Nothing that the company says or indeed, the planning approval requires, can be taken as certain.
“In January, this year the company quietly sought and received a third modification to its Maules Creek coal mine planning approval for permission to put more traffic on our local roads and reduce to zero the level of community consultation required when submitting its ‘management plans’.
“Our expectation is that there should be no additional concessions to Whitehaven until the company becomes fully compliant with the existing planning and environmental approval conditions.
“We encourage the Department to act more decisively on breaches of any exceedances of the mines conditions, particularly those that relate to dust and noise and not merely issuing fines that are a light slap on the wrist.
“This company has made much to its shareholders of its ability to contain costs but it says nothing of who is bearing the real cost. The community and the environment.
MCCC letter to DoPE here.
DoPE response here.
1Maules Creek Independent Environmental Audit, 22 August 2016 | The SMEC Group https://www.whitehavencoal.com.au/environment/docs/2015-iea-and-response-to-recommendations.pdf
By • Uncategorized •
May 28 2017
The motion said:
“That the policy of the CWA of NSW shall be to support a ban on unconventional gas exploration, extraction and production.”
The vote was carried by a clear majority of 281 to 193.
It is the second year in a row that a vote on unconventional gas was passed with a clear majority, with the 2016 conference calling for a moratorium on unconventional gas until it could be proven to be safe.
Congratulations to the Maules Creek branch and their delegates, who have led the way again on CSG.
We now await further statements from John Barilaro, leader of the national party who said only days earlier that the industry should be expanded in NSW.
May 24 2017
Should the NGP get the tick of approval from NSW Planning and obtain funding to construct the Narrabri gasfield it is inevitable that Santos or the NGP’s future owners will apply for additional wells, eventually in the vicinity of Maules Creek.
The Maules Creek Community Council Inc (MCCC) is concerned about the lack of essential information for landholders and the community in the Environmental Assessment (EA) to manage the impacts of the Santos Narrabri Gas Project (NGP) and the precedent that it could set. The project creates a great deal of uncertainty for landholders and is not a fit for purpose planning document for the people of NSW.
Much has been made of the 7,000 page NGP EA yet despite 10 years of planning, basic, fundamental data is missing. Namely the infrastructure locations, well locations, the baseline data for soil, surface and ground water quality, and the air quality at those locations.
Crucial location information required by landholders to assess the NGP has been deliberately held back, post approval, to be revealed in the “Field Development Protocol”, which is of little use to landholders making decisions today.
Baseline data at those locations, critical to hold the proponent to account is also not available, further impairing affected landholders ability to make plans to manage the impacts whether they are supportive or against the NGP.
Given Santos’s sketchy track record in the Pilliga, this information is essential to protect landholders, the environment and the community.
Landholders require baseline data and location information in order to:
- Take out insurance cover and make successful claims,
- Successfully enforce land access agreement indemnities in the courts,
- Assess the effectiveness or otherwise of adaptive management procedures,
- Avoid situations where the proponent has to “make good”,
- Understand cumulative impacts with other developments and where necessary to apportion blame
Full submission here.
By • Uncategorized •
Jan 27 2017
When Exxon covered up Climate Change for 4 decades some people thought it was a one off, but new evidence emerging in a wrongful dismissal case regarding Origin Energy’s gas operations shows that the practice is widespread.
The appointment of the executive who is the subject of the allegations to head up the Business Council of Australia is a worrying development. It is concerning that no action has been taken by the BCA. At the least he should step aside, but for Origin to survive the ensuing brand damage the allegations and the subsequent operations of the company should be subject to a independent forensic audit.
Industries that exist with state sponsorship such as oil and gas have a higher appetite for risk beyond that of normal businesses and in this environment “alternative facts” thrive.
It is a familiar theme for those following the saga of the Maules Creek coal mine. Negative dust readings have been ignored by many as simply another post truth that will survive the shortened media cycle under the cover of the latest political scandals or political messaging.
Yet many close their ears to the broader story and its only when the impacts come crashing home.
When companies like Rio Tinto whose 6 year battle with the residents of the village of Bulga spectacularly exited coal this week, we see the companies for what they are. There is no loyalty to the districts that they’ve profited from, or the jobs that they’ve hidden behind.
By • Uncategorized •
May 31 2016
Notes 18 May 2016 Maules Creek CCC meeting at Mine site office- 2pm.
observed that it was very noisy from external mine site noise- in meeting room and vibrating- thumping. (It was not like this the other two times (Aug 2015, Nov 2015.) Observers in seats off to side; along wall. Not allowed to sit at table or have access to any documents presented during meeting. No docs/correspondence read out loud.
2pm. Present Cath Collyer (Narrabri shire council)- replacing Lloyd Finlay who resigned), John Turner (independent chair), Carolyn Nancarrow (Community rep), Dr. Kerri Clarke (Enviro Rep), Lexi (WHC enviro officer), Peter Wilkinson (WHC), Scott Mitchell(WHC)- WHC Minute taker – WHC. Observers- Libby Laird, Pat Murphy, 1 child, Angela Felton (DoPE) and Nina… (DoPE)- (both arrived about 2.45.)
Apologies sought: None. JT ellicited whether Wayne Griffith (Aboriginal rep) had apologised- no he hadn’t apologised. CN apologised for Jason Davis.
JT: Great. You make up our quorum – (JT visibly counting CN, CC and now KC).
JT: Declaring pecuniary interest. I receive a fee for chairing the meeting.
(No other pecuniary interests declared by anyone else).
JT: Minutes to be passed? (KC- hand up) No- Minutes for discussion. Kerri has q’s
Kerri: Need to clarify when to circulate. Would like them quicker than 3 weeks after meeting.
JT/P.Wil: Guidelines say to be published within 28 days. No guideline time line as to when to get to members.
JT: Minutes are typed, sent to me (JT) then sent to CCC- then put on web but are still not confirmed until passed at this/the next meeting. A request to company – P.Wil that minutes from company be sent expeditiously to members.
KC: details missing such as when the clearing took place – from mid-feb- April ends- clarification of time. pg 5 company report…? Also number of women employed- I had 48 from meeting. Minutes say 53. Why is this different?…
P.Wil: Numbers change…
KC But not in the minutes. I raise concerns about enviro-data being sent by post- and in my case to Sustainable Living Armidale. I didn’t get it. Our meeting date is later this month. I request for enviro-data to be sent via email. The reason we asked for them to be sent out before the meeting was to allow the community to provide feedback/questions at the meeting. [Didn’t have the environmental data to look at and annotate].
P.Wil: will “consider” putting enviro-data on email ahead of next meeting so issues can be canvassed. Might need advice on this.
KC: Concern with meeting last time. Discussion of “zone of affectation”. Was breach of confidentiality in this discussion- for eg. how a property has “no limits”. Personal negotiation details were discussed. Was inappropriate. JT should have stopped discussion ruled “out of order”.
CN: Discussion of gas monitors and how landholders wouldn’t allow the monitors – not actually true.
CN: Email- letter from Pat Murphy.
KC: Pwatson last meeting was talking about monitors and getting data from WHC monitors. discussion was of project monitor- for approval- how has the data compared to actual data since approval. Non-attendant raw noise data was requested and request granted. Kerri asked in the last meeting to have PW’s request minuted that it was said to be OK with WHC to supply this data to enable the community to analyse it and make a comparison. Ros Druce also wrote a letter- not accepted last time- as personal negotiation details in it. Letter to be represented this time- later. Ros’ letter referred to compliance monitoring and requesting data from the WHC monitors (noise and dust) located on private property ‘Wongalea’.
SM: EPL reporting- data is uploaded monthly.
Pwil: don’t recall saying we would give raw noise data.
KC: Referring to SM comment. We don’t want averaged data. Requested raw data.
PW/SM: is only for compliance monitoring.
JT: Are you required to give raw data?
SM: Attended data yes. Unattendant- no requirement to provide this under our approval- is only a management tool.
JT: Will SM voluntarily make the info available?
Pwil: We will consider it- but probably not- as not a requirement.
KC: P. Watson said last meeting- “if nothing to hide then what is problem?”
JT: Well, is no data today. Advise WHC to seek advice from DoPE- as to requirement.
SM: Is only a compliance tool.
KC: page 4. Peter- Can community have “gas” data- noise, blast general?
JT: Company can respond to this.
KC: Another minutes amendment- Craig Simmons said A346- said exploration on this property. I want the property name “Wollondilly” noted as this property in the minutes.
JT attempts to pass amendments to the minutes.
PW: asked if the proposed amended sections of the minutes could be read back.
JT: In summary what are they?
Minute keeper- oh… vegetation clearing note, women employees nos 53 or 48? Noise and dust real time- project modelling- how does it compare, blasting…
unsure how to write KC’s amendment to Peter W. request.
JT: Difficult with Peter W away. Don’t want to put words in your mouth Kerri… but important in getting minute amendment wording right.
KC: Oh.. “PW requested raw data from WHC monitors to the community, and how did it compare to predicted monitoring…”
JT: Putting PW minutes wording to vote- show of hands- 2 in favour of wording being amended. 2 against.
CC: I was not at last meeting- as only just took on NSC rep role replacing LF.
JT: Will send minute to Peter to have him confirm wording. Company to send minute amendment wording to Peter in letter. Minutes cannot be passed at this meeting. So no business can arise from minutes as not passed.
JT: Correspondence: Reading Info Listed on Powerpoint Screen: Chair update, Lloyd Finlay resignation notification, blast fume info session, CS response to letter from Mrs Heiler.
JT : Letter and phone call from CS to Mrs Heiler was made – (no detail given of content). Lloyd could have a conflict of interest to CC Committee so resigned. Take this time to say what an outstanding contribution LF has made to CCC. Thank him very much for efforts. CC is here instead. Sorry for not introducing. We see each other on so many different committees….
KC: Received blast management plan at Blast Fume info session. Due 20 May for comments.
P.Wil: Mine info: Last three months 361 employees, 370 as of today. 48 indigenous. 54 female. (approx. six categories with 5 columns- removed before could note down info. Screen now stuck on up coming meeting dates calendar while P.Wil talked.)
8-8.5 million tonne/ year production. Safety record good- no recordable injuries in March-May period.
Mining operator of Year award-
CC: Are you saying WHC won the award. Or WHC MCC specifically?
P.Wil: Yes Minerals’ Council Award- MCC won it at Parliament House last week.
(silence and “ohs” as info digested by reps –silence punctuated by vibrating building)
SM: monitoring- environmental award.
P.Wil: this is Scott Mitchell. Craig Simmons left for personal reasons. Relocated to Hunter. Looking to replace Craig.
JT: CN do you have anything?
CN: Yes. Why is there differences between what CCC was sent out and what is on website? e.g. exceedances in website data but not on CCC data. Both March 31 2016- exceedance, June 19 2015- exceedance on website but not on CCC data sheets.
SM: Additional low frequency details. Noise monitoring. Broner, not a recognised method of assessment. NM4- contribution 31-33. 5db modifying factor- 36 db, 38db at that particular location. We are in the process of purchasing that property…
KC: Which property is NM4?
SM: Well, don’t like to say….. private landholder confidentiality.
SM: Low frequency, modifying factor (IMP?). Guideline in 1 MP… A lot of work done by DPE and EPA…
P.Wilk: Not a particularly validating way of assessing noise…WHC do not accept EPA noise monitoring is valid…. Reporting against this- looking at L weighted mining contribution… we don’t think it is as much as said…
CN: This represents significant breaches of worst case scenarios.
KC:”Wongalea”- has WHC monitors that were installed- not proper authority given to put monitors on property … however they are there and since 2014 owners have submitted requests for data monitors of noise and dust. This letter is being resubmitted this meeting as not accepted last time as said to contain confidential/legal information. Legal paragraphs have been removed by Ros Druce and am now resubmitting on her behalf.
Letter submitted for Ros Druce by KC.
JT: suggests “reading time”.
KC: “read out loud?”
JT: No. (Members read.) Observers and ?services can get off web later.
(Observers not allowed to hear contents or read letter. Letters to date have not been on web.)
JT: (to KC) What do you want?
KC: WHC to provide specific Wongalea data.
P.Wil: Take question on notice
JT: (To P.Wil) Seek advice from DPE?
P.Wil: Seek from appropriate people.
KC: Am submitting copy of EPA letter to Ros Druce. Letter analyses coal deposits on furniture. Is not outside acceptable levels, but concerned about depositional dust and coal dust in air, water tanks, roofs, surfaces. 15% is high as is through shade cloth on outdoor furniture. This is submitted to support why she wants raw data results.
CN: another community member on Maules Ck road has reported coal dust on their surfaces. Is on MC road. Wants to remain anonymous.
KC: How to mitigate dust?
CN: Appreciate receiving the prevailing wind direction data during attendant monitoring times. Will this continue?
SM: Yes data will be available in environmental data summary to CCC.
SM: No exceedances during reporting period.
KC: Can we have wind direction added to all the monitoring areas: blasting, dust?
P.Wil: WHC will report back.
KC: Considering history it should be made available.
JT: Only need to report under statutory requirements. As a CCC we could make strong requests.
CN: Good faith.
KC: Could you add your data to Ozforecast website…. is a service to local Narrabri community about weather and conditions…
P.Wil: take on notice.
JT: Is out of discussion of CCC. PWil and KC to have a conversation in good faith. Decision is under operational not statutory matter.
KC: At Nov CCC you said you were renewing “blasting” contractor.
P.Wil: Still in process.
KC: In November meeting you said you were using the more expensive explosive that produced less fumes, will that continue.
P.Wil: Considering cost and product.
CC: Is it same contractor as Tarrawonga?
P.Wil: Not commenting. [N.B. Someone did say that the contractors were the same, but not sure which mine it was they referred to].
KC: Products used?
P.Wil: Not saying.
CN: Are they listed in blast management plan?
JT: Point of order. Is commercial in confidence information.
KC: What is used interim?
P.Wil: Doesn’t vary much.
KC: I think you told me in the November meeting so will look this up?
JT: Air: (agenda item)
S.M. “Dust depositional… all good” (not sure who said this.)
Nothing to say. (Observer comment- personally I am stunned because air quality has been visibly reduced over last three months and excessively diminished for last three days. But let’s face it- no residents who live in actual Maules Creek are on the CCC (PW who is a very good rep but absent at this meeting- lives in Therrabri). PM and myself are observers (and appreciate this opportunity) at this meeting and specifically instructed by JT by email not to speak, hand notes or speak through a third person during meeting- (in line with CCC guidelines?).
JT: Water: (agenda item)
P.Wil: Ground water, surface water, treading along the same path.
CC: With dry conditions, do you have enough water?
P.Wil: Yes. We have onsite dams.
CC: Are they full?
P.Wil: We fill them from the river.
CC: You had an allocation 6-8 weeks ago. Still enough?
P.Wil: We will be filling up very shortly from river.
CC: Keepit Dam is very low.
P.Wil: State Water decision. We have high security water. We make request and Keepit Dam apply whatever rules they have.
JT: Community complaints: (agenda item)
Table is shown on powerpoint. Air, noise…. up for a couple of minutes- but too quick to record number. Reported as greatly decreased number of complaints compared to 2015.
CC; Source of complaints?
P.Wil/SM: These are the calls we get to WHC hotline.
CC: Oh. Does this not include EPA complaints. These complaints not recorded. Not like other CCC’s I’ve been on.
P.Wil: EPA tell us about some. Not all.
S.M/ P.Wil… inaudible discussion- unclear at observer seats how many they are including in figures, unclear to CCC members too, moves on quickly.
J.T: General Business: Kerri?
KC: Security- intimidation and stalking many km away from mine, sample of mine-type rope with reflectors used to dangerously rope off North Loop road. Tabling some security photos and maps- complaints asked to be passed on from local residents.
P.Wil: Which company are the photos of?
KC: I don’t know company names.
P.Wil: Is clear on vehicles…. very distinct.
KC: Driving up Black Mountain Ck road. 20 kms from mine site. Which company would do this surveillance?
P.Wil: What evidence?
KC: not sure of company names, but I have pictures with numbered vehicles from two firms – which is MCC security. Should I bring it up at the Triple CCC meeting tomorrow because all the mines will be present and involves Boggabri mine as well?
JT: Would be a waste of time today if not responsibility of this MC mine. So yes would be best. Anything else KC? I have pictures to identify companies.
PWil: You can show me after the meeting.
CC: Blast Management Drafted- handed out two weeks ago here at Blast Management Meeting with some community and council reps present. (observer note; is referring to a private, invitation meeting of which CCC members were included- held at MC mine site office). How many weeks for comment?
SM: Well we have three plans out that we would have liked comments back by 16 May. But date has come and gone.
P.Wil/Sm?: 3 weeks for comment.
SM: Biodiversity Management Plan- draft Comments due.
CN: Have had it for 2.5 weeks.
CC: Biodiversity management plan Draft (waves thick (200 page + bound colour copy of BMP draft). I would need 2 weeks to review it.
Process clarified by p.Wil/SM or JT- (not sure which). Goes from here to DoPE. Can put submission through DoPE- they send it to us and we/MCC review/consider it.
KC: Offsets are an issue. Community needs three weeks.
JT: CCC already agreed to 2 weeks. This is consensus committee. Don’t want to be voting on everything. 2 weeks.
p.Wil: Will come back to you – tomorrow over issue with 3 week extra time for feedback.
JT: That’s noted.
KC: Lloyd Finlay asks How much consultation done with community?
P.Wil: This is the community consultation.
KC: 2 offset properties that don’t have agreements but are listed as offsets in draft BMP. So will they be told that they have three weeks or maybe two weeks to give feedback?
P.Wil: have arranged to drop copies off to one of those people tomorrow.
CC: So no other community consultation required beyond CCC?
J.T: Yes, is statutory requirement.
C.N: Lloyd Finlay letter tabled about BMP… (not read out or copy supplied to observers)
P.Wil: We are taking letter on notice. Due consideration will go to LF letter.
JT: Next meeting:
JT: CCC Draft meeting guidelines: Lexi has something to say.
Lexi (WHC enviro officer): Addressing JT and DoPE observers. “WHC only works from approved documents. We do not work from draft guidelines in any of our operations. Therefore we only go by CCC approved guidelines- not drafts.”
JT: As chair I can ask observer, Angela Felton DoPE would you like to comment?
AF:…. (can’t remember what she said…)
JT: Anything else ….KC?
KC: Make up of CCC membership. No Aboriginal rep. had attended CCC meetings since appointment to the role in November. Another community rep has not attended Nov, Mar, or today meeting. Isn’t the responsibility of Chair (JT) to keep on top of CCC attendance?
JT: P.Wil/J.T: Was hard to get someone as Aboriginal rep. Can’t force people to come.
KC: When will the vacant community rep position (resigned position prior to Nov 15) be advertised? Need new members.
PWil: won’t be advertised. Statutory obligation is 3 community members – we have 3.
KC: No Jason Davis (Boggabri community rep) (JD). Missed more than 4 meetings in a row. Rod Woolford resigned back in October. Not replaced. Only CN from community present today. Not enough representation considering this is WHC only form of community consultation.
JT: CCC only requires 3 community members. Says up to 5. don’t have to have five.
KC: JD missed 4 straight.
CN: JD Was at Aug meeting.
JT: Will review attendance. Will contact people and remind them of their obligations. (To P.Wil. “will need to ensure members”).
CC: 3-5 community members is obligation and what happens if more people aren’t available. You had better advertise in preparation.
P.Wil: Will take this on notice.
KC: Want it minuted that the full number of community reps should be appointed considering the meeting is the only form of community consultation undertaken by WHC.
meeting closed- approx. 3.35pm.
By • Uncategorized •
Jan 15 2016
Special screening: Dendy Cinema, Opera Quays, Circular Quay
Monday, 18th January 2016 6:30PM followed by Panel Discussion ( details below)
This screening of BLACK HOLE brings the hot button issue of open cut coal mining in agricultural New South Wales to Sydney’s iconic centre, so city audiences can learn about a tragedy that is playing out in our country areas.
Maules Creek is at the far NorthEast tip of the famous Liverpool Plains agricultural region of NSW, adjacent to a critically endangered woodland and koala habitat, the Leard State Forest.
Three coal mines at the Leard Forest are bringing this agricultural region to its knees, with 66 adjacent farm properties having been bought out by the mines to date and agricultural production proven to be in decline as a result.
The Boganaire* Nathan Tinkler, now back in town and trying to promote another open cut mine at Dartwood NSW, infamously initiated the huge Maules Creek mine which is approved for 13 million tonnes of coal per annum, most of it going to Japan.
Currently under investigation by ASIC for fudging their coal forecasts, Whitehaven Coal and its neighbour Boggabri Coal 100% owned by Japanese Idemitsu Resources, are now preparing to exterminate another 500 hectares of the Leard Forest in February.
Despite their repeated breaches of conditions the mines are barely fined by the NSW Government and continue on their destructive path, even as coal prices continue to plummet.
The decline of agriculture, the human cost, risk to water aquifers, obscene destruction of Gomeroi aboriginal heritage sites, and the trajectory of extinction of a woodland listed as a critically endangered ecosystem, all foretell the desperate future of large swathes of NSW farmland and forests. At Breeza, in the heart of the Liverpool Plains, the Chinese government owned Shenhua coal is planning a repeat performance of the Leard Forest destruction and will destroy Australia’s most fertile farming soil.
BLACK HOLE feature documentary, released late 2015, is by Melbourne film maker Joao Dujon Pereira. Dujon spent several months living at the Leard Forest Blockade camp at Maules Creek documenting the travesty. The film depicts stunning cinematography of the region, and allows the voices of protesters and community to tell the story.
By • Uncategorized •
Jul 20 2015
A coal pile is smouldering at the Boggabri coal mine, Maules Creek, 90 kilometres north west of Tamworth.
The Idemitsu Resources mine operates inside the Leard State Forest, a critically endangered white box woodland, and is adjacent to Whitehaven’s controversial Maules Creek coal mine.
Community members observed the spontaneous combustion from a vantage point inside the forest when they were 4-wheel driving.
“There was a steady stream of smoke from several places in the stockpile at the Japanese-owned Idemitsu mine,” said Pat Schultz, who conducts the Leard and Pilliga Forest Tours.
The fires were reported immediately to the NSW EPA which advised the community that Boggabri Coal management had been notified and an investigation initiated.
“Over 48 hours later the fires are still going, and no visible action by the company to quell them even though there is a full dam of water adjacent to the coal piles,” said Ms Schultz. “In fact there wasn’t a worker in sight.”
“If this is happening in mid-winter, with recent rain, obviously it shows what a risk open cut coal mines are. After the Hazelwood mine fire in Victoria, which burned heavily for weeks, one would expect the mine to be taking these fires seriously.”
By • Uncategorized •
May 4 2015
Media Release 4.5.2015
The Federal Government’s National air quality standards review will be hearing about deeply worrying levels of dust in the 30 kilometre radius of affectation around the Boggabri and Maules Creek coal mines, according to a submission from Maules Creek community members.
“This submission includes accounts and photographs of daily coal dust haze, and regular nitrogen dioxide gas plumes, in the area,” said submission spokesperson Libby Laird. “Dust in rain water tanks and peoples’ water filters show that coal dust is spreading far wider than the mines care to admit.”
“When you drill down into the facts in our submission, you realise that the impacts of these mines and their approvals is breathtaking,” said Ms Laird.
The Maules Creek Community Council states that the Leard Forest mine complex will cause the deposition of 18,000 tonnes of coal dust in the surrounding regions annually, 20 km north of Boggabri town. This estimate has never been successfully challenged.
The submission focuses on the main source of air pollution from the perspective of the Narrabri and Boggabri communities, which is the open cut mega coal mines.
“We maintain that the wealth of our region is based on the health of people, families and communities. A healthy environment and clean air is critical to our future,” said Ms Laird.
“We need to monitor for the 2.5 micron particulate matter (PM2.5) which are said to be related to a host of health issues.”
“We need the air quality data presented in a meaningful way. We see larger particulates hanging in the air and the degradation to our local air quality. But we can’t see PM2.5 levels. And at an educational forum held in January at Maules Creek Community Hall, a doctor with expertise in impacts of coal mines on community health provided us with evidence that exposure to dust is dangerous. There is no safe exposure level without effects.”
By its own admission, Whitehaven Coal’s mine states in its Air Quality Assessment that Year 10 will be the worst year of the 21 year Maules Creek mine, when many local properties will experience dust levels way higher than the present National Air Quality standards.
“The mines may already be exceeding the National Air Quality Standards,” said Ms Laird, “we don’t know due to secrecy surrounding air quality data.”
“In 2012, the Planning Assessment Commission, in its review of the Boggabri mine expansion actually said that ‘more detailed modelling of the potential cumulative impacts would be ideal.’ We agree. But was their modelling done?”
Coinciding with the National Air Quality Standards Review, the NSW EPA is also pushing forward with a New England and North West NSW air quality monitoring plan to be funded by the coal promoters by a levy attached to their EPA licence. This is similar to the industry funded monitoring schemes in the Upper Hunter Valley and Newcastle.
However in a joint push-back by Idemitsu Resources and Whitehaven Coal via the Chairman of their Community Consultative Committees, John Turner, the miners are fighting to avoid this responsibility. They are asking the NSW Government to pay.
“Whitehaven Coal promised its shareholders that it will be Australia’s lowest-cost coal miner, and now it is asking the NSW Government to exempted them from the air quality monitoring levy,” said Ms Laird.
“It is absolutely necessary to protect the health of families in the North West. We ask that the EPA’s industry levy be imposed on the mega mine complex and that they ensure that the mines manage their operations to prevent any health impacts. Multinationals should not be allowed to get away with making the NSW taxpayers pay for their obligation.”
“We also ask that the EPA publish the baseline air quality standards for the region and we are writing to the EPA to ask for them to conduct an independent audit of air quality for Maules Creek.”
“When Boggabri Coal started up, traffic movements to the south on Manilla Rd went from 30 to 600 per day, and as a result many properties had to be bought up by the mine due to dust,” she said. “Now 66 former farm properties in the area are under mine ownership.”
“Leard Forest mining was always meant to be underground mining, if at all. Since coal was first surveyed, local wisdom always held that it was too expensive to mine and export coal from Maules Creek. It appears, this wisdom still holds.”
Further information: For the full Maules Creek community submission to the Working Towards a National Clean Air Agreement Review: https://www.maulescreek.org/news/
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