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Issue #1643      June 18, 2014

Whitehaven forced to halt clearing

Whitehaven Coal last week was forced to halt its winter clearing of the Leard State forest for a new open-cut coal mine, in north-western NSW, following legal action by the Maules Creek Community Council.

Maules Creek Community Council spokesperson, Phil Laird said, “We are pleased that Whitehaven has been forced to respond to our legitimate challenge in the court undertaking to stop clearing in Leard State Forest”.

The community group, represented by environmental law experts, EDO NSW, sought an interim injunction in the NSW Land and Environment Court, to immediately stop the clearing during winter when animals, including threatened species, are hibernating in the forest.

“This outcome is a huge relief for the Maules Creek community and everyone that loves the wildlife of Leard State Forest. The slaughter of hibernating bats and other animals over winter was an outrage that has been rightly stopped” Mr Laird said.

A judgment in the case was expected after a hearing. However Whitehaven, instead gave an undertaking to the Court that it will halt the clearing until a full hearing on the matter, which is expected in early September.

The Maules Creek Community Council is arguing that Whitehaven is in breach of its development consent by winter/spring clearing of the forest. A breach of development consent contravenes the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979.

“This outcome sends a strong message to coal mining companies across NSW and to the NSW government – if they will not enforce the law, then the community is prepared to step up and do it themselves” Mr Laird said.

“We appreciate the action taken by Whitehaven today and we will be preparing to vigorously pursue the full legal challenge” he concluded.

The new Maules Creek coal mine project involves a total clearing of 1,664 hectares of forest which provide habitat for threatened species including bats, koalas, forest owls, the Swift Parrot and the Regent Honeyeater.

Next article – Australia Post – Resistance to sackings and privatisation

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