Idemitsu Australia Resources has hit back at claims made by activists that it has not provided adequate offset plans for a coal mine expansion in north-west New South Wales.
Idemitsu was given approval to expand the mine and increase its production from 3.5 million tonnes of coal per year to seven million tonnes.
It will also increase the disturbance area up to 1835 hectares – with nearly 1400 hectares of the forest expected to be cleared.
Idemitsu Australia Resources CEO, Rod Bridges, said that as part of state and federal government approval conditions, Boggabri Coal had acquired biodiversity offsets which are protected in perpetuity and include significant White Box Woodland, Namoi Valley Independent reported.
“The biodiversity offsets aim to counter balance our operations, which will impact 623 hectares of the White Box Woodland, as identified in our approved Biodiversity Management Plan,” Bridges said.
“Our biodiversity offsets include more than 2000 hectares of White Box Woodland and we have plans to acquire an additional 1000 hectares of the same community, as part of our commitment to protecting the region’s biodiversity.
“An independent audit for the Federal Government confirmed more than 1500 hectares of this is ‘like for like’ vegetation.
“We will also have an additional 1400 hectares which is lower grade and will be rehabilitated through supplementary planting and assisted natural regeneration, and maintained in accordance with our Biodiversity Management Plan.
“We have met our requirements under Federal and State Government approval conditions and the claim our biodiversity offsets have not been independently reviewed is not correct.”
Bridges said the community should not be misled by incorrect statements which are misrepresented as facts.
“All of our environmental activities are conducted to the highest professional standards,” he said.
“A separate independent audit of our biodiversity offsets found Boggabri Coal has exceeded the habitat area required for the Greater Long-eared Bat, the Regent Honeyeater and Swift Parrot by more than 450 per cent, and the report was approved by the Federal Government,” Bridges said.
However Northern Inland Council for the Environment spokesman Phil Spark says the company has exploited a “loophole” to avoid scrutiny around the quantity and quality of white box woodland in their offsets.
Spark says the company’s biodiversity offset plan do not include an assessment of the white box woodland areas and instead focuses on habitat for woodland birds and bats.
“It is alarming that Idemitsu can raze critically endangered forest for an open cut coal mine, when there is no assurance that the same quality and quantity of that ecological community exists in their offsets,” Spark said.
Activist groups have promised to do what they can to hamstring the development of a number of coal projects in the area which they claim will destroy the Leard Forest.
Dozens of people have been arrested at the nearby Maules Creek mine site since protests and blockades began aimed at halting that mine’s construction.
Yesterday three more people were taken into custody after chaining themselves to construction equipment.
Whitehaven Coal has previously called acts of civil disobedience a nuisance but has vowed to forge ahead with the project saying it obtained approvals after a rigorous and thorough process.