Day 198

One week ago, Tony Burke hoaxed the nation by pretending he wasn’t really approving the Maules Creek Mine and the expansion to the Boggabri Mine. His approval conditions are online, so you can decide for yourself, but if he says he can still knock them back, we’re more than willing to hold him to it.

As we all now know, Burke snubbed Tony Windsor’s Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Coal-Seam Gas and Large Coal Mines, which was touted as an extra layer of assessment which would ensure that impacts on aquifers would be minimised in deciding on projects like the ones which would destroy Leard Forest and threaten the viability of the small farming community of Maules Creek. The committee found that the mines would drop the water table by two metres in the alluvial aquifer and ten metres in the hard rock aquifer, which could drain the alluvial aquifer.

The committee did not support leaving a final void, or pit lake, which would drain the water table for a thousand years. They also recommended that dryland salinity be considered as a potential impact on offset areas, that there be flood modelling on the impact of the rail crossing over the Namoi River, and that impacts of water drawdown on matters of national environmental significance be taken into account when making a decision.

Burke failed to mention most of the issues raised in the committee’s report in his conditions of consent. The report was issued on the 20th of December, and one day later, Burke wrote to Barry O’Farrell to say he was planning to approve the mines.

The reaction to Burke’s decision was immediate. Twelve hours after his decision, a FLAC activist climbed into a tree platform attached to four logging machines, dramatically halting clearing for the day. Maules Creek farmers slammed the decision and started fundraising for a legal challenge to stop the mines. Gomaroi elders are organising a march for country through Gunnedah on the 28th of March. A day of action against HSBC, the biggest investor in ANZ Bank, took place over the weekend. Organisations like the Wilderness Society and National Parks Association wrote to their members urging them to contact Burke and step up the campaign.

We’re getting ready to put ourselves on the line and stop the construction of the new mine. It’s up to us to show the kind of courage Tony Burke should have shown. Please come out to our “Listen Up for Leard Forest” gig on March 9-10, march against coal expansion and a fourth coal terminal in Newcastle on March 16 (10am at Civic Park), and chip in to the legal fighting fund.

Once a couple of boxes are ticked, Whitehaven can start building the mine any day. We need you out here to stand up for our forests, farmlands, health, water and climate. Because, you know, we kind of need them.