Senate Inquiry means work must stop at Maules Creek and on projects threatening the Great Barrier Reef

Press release - 4 March, 2014
4 March, 2014: In light of today’s announcement concerning a Senate Inquiry into the use of environmental offsets and the integrity of the process, Greenpeace is calling on the Environment Minister, Greg Hunt, to order all work on Whitehaven’s Maules Creek coal mine and the Galilee Basin in Queensland to stop until the Senate Inquiry reports back on June 16.

Maules Creek is the largest coal mine under construction in Australia. The Galilee mines would be the largest ever built in the country. These – and many more projects – are approved on the proviso that offsets compensate for the damage the developments cause.

The controversy surrounding Whitehaven’s coal mine escalated last month when yet another report was released questioning the integrity of Whitehaven’s proposed offsets. Ecolorist John Hunter found land purchased by Whitehaven to replace Whitebox gum at its Maules Creek site in NSW's Leard Forest contained little of the endangered ecological community. Only about five per cent of the sites surveyed “was likely to fulfil the criteria of the critically endangered ecological community determination", said Dr. Hunter in a report commissioned by the Northern Inland Council for Environment.

“In the case of Whitehaven’s Maules Creek mine, the company is on the verge of wiping out swathes of rare and precious forest, and offsetting it with clapped out and cleared country that has next to nothing of the ecological value of the Leard State Forest,” said Ben Pearson, Head of Program at Greenpeace.

Phil Spark, an independent ecologist who has mapped both the endangered ecological community in the Leard state Forest and the alleged offsets said, “Comparing the offset properties purchased by Whitehaven Coal to the endangered ecological community in the Leard State Forest is like comparing a car park to forest – they have next to nothing in common. I really welcome the Senate Inquiry for shining a light on this murky business.”

“At Abbot Point, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority was scathing about the validity of the offsets,” said Pearson. “Yet somehow these were still used in justification for approving new coal terminals in one of the most precious places on the planet. Quite simply, the vast majority of offsets are thinly veiled attempts to justify the unjustifiable,” concluded Pearson.

For further information contact
Ben Pearson 0424 575 1110424 575 111
Julie Macken 0400 925 2170400 925 217
Phil Spark 0427 642 2450427 642 245

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