Whitehaven says Maules Creek mine protests funded by foreigners, not locals

Whitehaven Coal CEO says one of the biggest frustrations around developing the Maules Creek mine project has been activism from international activists and not just concerned locals.

Speaking at a recent Hunter Valley Business Chamber Mining lunch in Newcastle, Paul Flynn talked about the difficult road his company had travelled to gain approvals for the project, pointing to green tape, duplication and activism as the most challenging aspects.

"You only need to look at the twists and turns we've had to take in order to move this project forward. This has changed the views of our partners about where they want to invest their dollars," Flynn said. 

"We are very close to it now. It has been a hard grind.

“Activism has been a big part of that and that's been frustrating because so much of it has been funded by international activists, not concerned locals."

The $766 million project has been a contentious issue within the community, with a spate of protests and court trials threatening to hamstring the mine’s development.

The Northern Inland Council for the Environment filed a challenge to appeal the proposed mine in July, challenging the validity of former federal environment minister Tony Burke’s decision to approve the project.

The group claim Burke approved the mine without viewing an adequate offset package.

The court’s decision on whether the project should proceed is pending.

While protests broke out after the decision to grant environmental approval was handed down, with Traditional Owners claiming Whitehaven hasn’t done enough in its Cultural Heritage Management Plan to preserve cultural artefacts

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.

Earlier this year Front Line Action on Coal activist Jonathan Moylan temporarily wiped $314 million off the company’s market value when he issued a fake ANZ press release purporting to withdraw a $1.2 billion loan to finance Maules Creek on corporate responsibility grounds.

And the mine’s development continues to draw attention, with protestors gate crashing two industry events in recent months brandishing placards denouncing the mine and its investment partners.

However Whitehaven have been steadfast in its plans to continue with the mine, stating that the ‘mere commencement of litigation’ would not stop the company in continuing with construction work.

“The Maules Creek coal project involved a comprehensive assessment and decision-making process,'' the company said.

Flynn said the outlook for his company was a positive one with the project set to become a boon for the miner and the local economy.

"Maules Creek attracts a lot of attention, but it is a significant asset for the business with reserves of 360 million tonnes. It will double our profile,” he said.

"It is also going to be a significant contributor to the state with another 400 – 500 jobs in the area and $6.5 billion in royalties and corporate tax over the first 21 years of the project."

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