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SLA representative quits Maules Creek Community Consultative Committee

Resignation letter of David Paull, Armidale Sustainable Living representative on the Maules Creek Community Consultative Committee (CCC).

David Ross
Chair, Maules Creek CCC 

Dear David 

Please find my notification of resignation from the Maules Creek Community Consultative Committee. While my participation was in the expectation of a two-way interaction in good faith, I now feel participation in the Committee only serves to legitimise bad actions by the company, which I have come to see have been undertaken in a manner without regard for consequences. 

As a write this I note that the latest modification to the consent allows the burying of tyres at Maules Creek Mine, as the company has done at Werris Creek, without a proper environmental assessment of the consequences or logistical assessment of the alternatives. This is a final straw for a litany of misdemeanours perpetrated without recourse by Whitehaven at its mines in the Namoi Catchment, my home. Many of these have ended in legal action, though without it seems any indication that Whitehaven intends to act within the law in future. 

Conducting operations within the legal parameters by Whitehaven has been a fuzzy thing, in no small part assisted by the lax compliance standards now evident by government authorities at both the state and Commonwealth levels. This has added to feeling of community helplessness felt by so many colleagues who have attempted to engage constructively with various mining entities. 

Below is a list of issues which have been of great concern to the community and for which have added to a community sense of powerlessness and futility. 

Chief among these is the ongoing biodiversity offset saga, with Maules Creek Mine still to tick of the offset measures as laid down under the EPBC consent 2010/5566 (approved 11th February 2013). The ongoing clearing of the critically endangered White Box woodland during this time has meant that Whitehaven has inflicted an irreversible and irreplaceable significant impact on an ecological community that should never have been subjected to this impact in the first place. Continual modifications of the consent conditions by the Commonwealth has allowed this to occur. 

Repeated water theft by Whitehaven at its Maules Creek mine. Whitehaven pleaded guilty to stealing one billion litres of water at its Maules Creek coal mine, vindicating community complaints of water theft first lodged in 2018. Court documents obtained by Lock the Gate Alliance show Whitehaven used dams and water storages at its Maules Creek mine site to illegally capture rainfall and surface water runoff between July 2016 and June 2019. 

Whitehaven was fined $372,500 for breaches at its Narrabri Coal Mine, particularly illegally clearing tracks and bore sites in its exploration area. 

The NSW Land and Environment Court has convicted and fined Whitehaven in March 2019 after it pleaded guilty to breaching its environment protection licence for a blast at its Rocglen Mine near Gunnedah in August 2016, following successful prosecution by the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA). 

Whitehaven Coal was hit with $30,000 in fines for two pollution incidents at their Tarrawonga mine near Boggabri. The NSW Environmental Protection Authority announced two $15,000 fines for 

alleged pollution of waters and failing to operate plant and equipment in a proper and efficient manner in February 2020. 

Coal mining is no longer sustainable as an option for Australia to meet its international obligations on greenhouse emission reduction as laid out by the IPCC. This has been brought out by the recent class action against the Vickery Mine expansion. Lawyers stated: 

“The court has found that the minister owes a duty of care to younger children, to vulnerable people, and that duty says that the minister must not act in a way that causes harm – future harm – from climate change to younger people”. 

There are number of minor breaches going back to 2017, air and water ways pollution incidents with Whitehaven being hit very minor fines. 

Whitehaven is a repeat offender and cannot be trusted to do the right thing by the community and the environment. It is a bad faith operator and I have concluded participation in the box-ticking exercise which the CCCs have become only serves to enable them to continue with their bad practice and bad faith dealings. 

I will be encouraging other Committee members to also resign from the various Whitehaven Committees. 

Sincerely, David Paull 

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