The Federal Government’s approval of the Maules Creek coal mine and the expansion of the adjacent Boggabri operation has sparked further protests in the Leard State Forest.
On Tuesday one environmental activist was arrested after a day-long ‘‘tree-sit’’ protest that stopped work at the existing Boggabri operation.
Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke’s conditional approval for two coal projects and the AGL coal seam gas project at Gloucester has fuelled tensions in both regions with environmentalists and farmers accusing the government of gross hypocrisy, the Herald reported.
The Maules Creek project has received support from the Narrabri Shire Council, with mayor Conrad Bolton describing it as a big win for the regional economy.
Long term resident and farmer Phil Laird, didn’t agree saying the community was construction a fund to fight the mines.
Laird who is also a spokesman for the Maules Creek Community Council, said Narrabri council was not objective and has been compromised by the millions of dollars it poses to gain under a voluntary planning agreement signed with Maules Creek’s owner Whitehaven Coal.
‘‘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.’’
Infamous activist Jonathan Moylan, who was behind the fake press release hoax earlier this year which temporarily wiped $314 million off Whitehaven’s market value, said he and his fellow protesters were prepared to stay in the Leard forest for as long as it took to stop the mine.
Moylan commented on the arrest of one of his collaborators, yesterday saying, "given the mine is on public land in a state forest, I can’t see how they can make a charge of trespass stick, it's incongruous to charge somebody with trespass on public land".
Following Burke’s approval announcement on Monday afternoon Whitehaven Coal shares rose rapidly yesterday, closing yesterday up 7.7per cent at $3.19.
Burke reiterated yesterday that there was no guarantee any or all of the three projects would go ahead, there are still strict environmental protection conditions which need to be met.
‘‘The next stage of all of this though is to work out whether or not the companies can meet the further requirements that are there,’’ Burke said.
Approving a project conditionally allows the government to withdraw its approval if they are unsatisfied with the company’s efforts to meet the conditions laid down.