Maules Creek mine protest continues for second day

Local Indigenous community members have spent a second day protesting against Whitehaven’s Maules Creek mine, claiming the company failed to consult them about cultural and heritage concerns.

Around 50 members of the Indigenous community gathered at Vickery Park across the road from Whitehaven’s office today for a second day of protests.

They claim Whitehaven hasn’t done enough in its Cultural Heritage Management Plan to preserve cultural artefacts, with protesters this morning burning the plan in a fire.

Whitehaven received final approval to develop its $766 million Maules Creek mine last week, and said preparation of the mine site would begin this week.

Gomeroi Traditional Owner Stephen Talbott said the company has not carried out proper consultation and said more respect needs to be shown to local Indigenous culture, Namoi Valley Independent reported.

“Our people who were working for Whitehaven Coal have walked off the job and we are determined to fight this Maules Creek mine until they show respect to the Gomeroi people and our culture,” Talbott said.

“Whitehaven have shown no respect for Aboriginal cultural heritage or our people. Even today, they lied to our Elders about work progress. We are standing up for our Elders and for our children today.”

Talbot says the Maules Creek mine would see more than 4000 acres of "culturally significant forest, artefacts and cultural values" cleared and said it has not been properly assessed.

"There hasn't been a proper consultation process, the management plan is flawed and we don't believe that our people have been treated with proper respect or that our concerns about the destruction of cultural heritage have been addressed."

Red Chief Aboriginal Lands Council spokesperson Toni Comber also claims the company has disrespected cultural issues.

The protesters are calling for a meeting with Whitehaven and want preparatory work at the mine site halted.

“There has been some consultation but it’s been inadequate,” Comber said. 

In a statement to The Courier, Whitehaven said it hopes to meet with the group as soon as possible.

“Whitehaven awaits a positive response from the representative of the groups,” the spokesperson said.

“We wish to discuss the concerns raised today on a direct basis with those who have raised them in order for the management of Aboriginal cultural heritage items at the site to continue on an agreed basis.”

A Whitehaven spokeswoman yesterday said discussion with Indigenous groups had begun early in the Maules Creek project process.

"A detailed Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Impact Assessment was included … as part of the planning process and consultation has continued throughout the project," she said.

"Our Aboriginal Archaeology and Cultural Heritage Management Plan was lodged with the state government and has been approved.

"The management plan details the consultation process to date and the planned approach to consultation moving forward, as well as the management of salvage works."

The Maules Creek project has seen fierce protest from some members of the local community.

Long term resident and farmer Phil Laird said the mine would impact on the natural environment.

‘‘We don’t want this area to become the next Hunter Valley,’’ Leard said.

‘‘Between them, Maules Creek and Boggabri mines will account for more than 4000hectares of the 7500-hectare Leard State Forest, leaving massive final voids that the scientific experts said should be filled in.

‘‘Environmentally, the mines will devastate various native species including koalas and swift parrots, and as farmers, we are concerned about the damage the mines will do to the surrounding aquifers.’’

Earlier this year, activist Jonathan Moylan temporarily wiped $314 million off Whitehaven’s market value when he issued a fake press release stating ANZ had withdrawn a $1.2 billion loan to fund the project.

Moylan has since been charged over the hoax and told Australian Mining that he is willing to go to jail for his cause saying the miner shouldn’t be allowed to destroy the forest.

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