Protestors have formed a picket line at Whitehaven Coal’s Maules Creek mine development, vowing to continue their fight against the project that received final approval last week.
Workers reportedly walked off the job at the Maules Creek development site this morning as more than fifty Gomeroi traditional owners formed a picket line.
Gomeroi traditional owner Stephen 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.
"The forest contains cultural heritage sites, food sources, and totems of our people, and most of them will be permanently destroyed by the planned mine," Talbot said in a statement.
"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."
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.
A Whitehaven spokeswoman said discussion with Indigenous groups had begun early in the Maules Creek project process, The Australian reported.
"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."
Whitehaven also disputes the number of protesters, saying there are 15 people at the picket line.
Talbot said protests would continue at the site tomorrow and has called for salvage works to be stopped until community concerns have been dealt with.
The Maules Creek open cut mine is a key growth project for Whitehaven and is predicted to double the company’s annual production, making Whitehaven the largest coalminer in the Gunnedah Basin.
The project will produce about 60 per cent semi-soft coking coal, and 40 per cent high-quality thermal coal.
Once at full production, Maules Creek will produce 13 million tonnes annually, of which 10.5 million tonnes will be saleable coal.
The 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.’’
While 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.