Whitehaven Coal said the Department of Environment has cleared it of any wrongdoing amid claims the company’s Maules Creek biodiversity offsets package was based on false and misleading information.
Two independent reviews conducted on behalf of activist group Lock the Gate found the land purchased by the mining company to compensate for the removal of box gum trees does not provide 'like for like' habitat and were said to be completely different ecosystems.
The most recent review by ecologist, John Hunter, said only one of 53 sites surveyed “was likely to fulfil the criteria of the critically endangered ecological community determination".
Those against the development of the mine said the reports showed the development of the mine should not be allowed go ahead.
In an announcement yesterday, Whitehaven said an independent review of its offset package found it was fully compliant the project’s approval conditions.
The company said it welcomed news from the Environment Department that inquiries into allegations the Maules Creek offsets package was based on false and misleading information have been finalised, and that no further action will be taken by the department on the matter.
“We welcome the fact that the government has dismissed the claim that our offsets package was based on false and misleading information,” said Whitehaven Coal chief executive Paul Flynn.
“Today’s outcome is a very significant endorsement of the robustness of the scientific methodologies applied by both the company and the independent reviewer, and the substantial overall adequacy of the offsets package being offered.”
Whitehaven said it would work with the department to ensure that the final offset package reflects the overall proportion of the derived native grassland and woodland forms of Box Gum Woodland in the area being cleared, including the acquisition of additional offset property.
The company’s current offset package provides for the conservation of around 13 000 ha of land in exchange for the disturbance of some 1 600 ha of land.
Greens Senator Larissa Waters said Whitehaven have been awarded “a green-light to trash precious habitat and the Government's investigations have been dropped, all on the basis of an "independent" review bought by the coal company”.
"The Maules Creek approval is a complete farce and should never have been granted under our national environment law,” she said.
Meanwhile, activists have vowed to stage more protests against the mine’s development this Easter long weekend.