'Threatened Species Protection Unit' steps in between endangered species and Whitehaven bulldozers

Press release - 19 February, 2014
Thursday 20 February, 2014: Greenpeace’s ‘Threatened Species Protection Unit’ has entered the Leard State Forest – proposed site for the controversial Maules Creek coal mine - to document endangered species omitted by proponents, Whitehaven Coal, during the approval process.

With the Royal Botanic Gardens having confirmed the identity of one of these species, Greenpeace is calling on Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt to stop Whitehaven’s bulldozers until an investigation is carried out.

“We are revealing new evidence that the approval for Whitehaven to turn the Leard State Forest into a coal mine was and is totally inadequate and that the company’s off-set strategy is a lie,” said Greenpeace Campaigner Nic Clyde. “It’s time for Environment Minister Greg Hunt to step in, do his job and call a halt to the bulldozers before it’s too late.”

On the request of the previous Environment Minister, Whitehaven were required to commission an independent report into the ‘quantity and quality’ of biodiversity on land bought by the company in order to ‘offset’ destruction of the Leard State Forest.  Despite preparing the report and submitting it to Greg Hunt’s department, Whitehaven continue to refuse to release the findings publicly.

“Whitehaven Coal is bulldozing nationally significant biodiversity, in some of Australia’s rarest woodlands, destruction they have failed to ‘offset’,” said ecologist, Phil Spark. “They are determined to hide the evidence and trash this forest before the truth is revealed. We cannot allow this to happen.”

Today’s action comes less than a week after a prominent ecologist released a report providing further evidence the mine’s approval is based on false information. (1) A research briefing summarising the issues and controversy surrounding the Biodiversity Offset Strategy for Whitehaven Coal’s Maules Creek mine is available here. (2)

John Hunter – a leading expert on the vegetation of the Liverpool Plains – has found that 95 per cent of the White Box critically endangered ecological community (CEEC) that Whitehaven has claimed as an offset in order to get their approval past the regulators, does not exist in the area independently surveyed. There is only 0.1 per cent of this vegetation type left in Australia.

“With an independent review the company does not want to release, the world’s slowest departmental investigation, and an expert’s report finding a 95 per cent error rate in the crucial biodiversity offsets that got this mine approved, Greg Hunt must revoke Whitehaven’s approval,” concluded Clyde

Greenpeace calls on Minister Hunt to:

  1. Release - as a matter of priority - the Independent Review required under Condition 10 of the Maules Creek Mine approval
  2. Indicate what he intends to do in relation to the compelling and building independent expert evidence about the inadequacies of the offsets proposal and the likelihood that the offset conditions of the Maules Creek mine approval are not being met
  3. Require Whitehaven Coal to immediately stop any works that would destroy the specimens of Tylophora linearis until an impacts assessment has been submitted to him and appropriate protections have been put in place
  4. Require Whitehaven Coal to undertake a thorough assessment of Tylophora linearis and the Large-eared Pied Bat over the Maules Creek mine site and report to him so that he can satisfy his obligations under the EPBC Act and the approval as stipulated in conditions 32 and 37 of the approval.

Photos and video will be made available later in the day.

1.  http://www.scribd.com/doc/207517928/John-Hunter-Offset-Assessment-Report-13-Feb-2014-Final
2. www.greenpeace.org/australia/Global/australia/Media/Maules_Creek_Offsets_Brief_040220.pdf