NARRABRI-based activists and farmers have failed in their attempt to prevent Whitehaven Coal commencing construction of its Maules Creek coal mine in the Gunnedah Basin.
Northern Inland Council for the Environment (NICE) appealed to the Federal Court yesterday, seeking a legal injunction to stop Whitehaven clearing land in Leard State Forest.
The injunction application sought to prevent construction works while the Federal Court makes a decision on a full case, also brought by NICE, appealing the legality of the mine’s environmental approvals.
NICE argued the Maules Creek approval, granted by then-Environment Minister Tony Burke in February was flawed.
The NSW Environmental Defenders Office, representing NICE, argued Mr Burke breached the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act by allowing his decision to be influenced by the release of “commercially sensitive” correspondence.
The group also argued that the Minister made a legal error by not requiring independent verification of environmental offsets of both mines, which are designed to compensate for impacts on endangered and threatened wildlife, before the approval was granted.
NICE argued the offsets offer inadequate protection of the endangered ecological communities in the forest.
Whitehaven’s chief executive Paul Flynn said “this is obviously a positive result for the company. The Maules Creek project has been through one of the most rigorous planning approvals processes at both State and Federal levels ever undertaken by a mine in New South Wales.
“Coal production remains on target for the first quarter of 2015.”
Phil Laird’s family has farmed in the area for 130 years. He is president of Maules Creek Community Council, which is part of the NICE organisation.
"As a landholder whose family has been farming in this area for six generations, we understand the cycles of nature and the fragility of this country,” he said.
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