A proposed new expansion of Whitehaven Coal’s Vickery mine has upset residents and farmers in the Boggabri region, whose water source, and very way of life may be at risk. Farmers are among those decrying Whitehaven’s plans, and the suggestion that their plans are a result of pressure from the local government.
Local farmer David Watt claims to have been approached by Whitehaven officials, who sat down with him at his home and made some troubling claims about the mine’s planned expansion.
“Two Whitehaven officials told my wife and I at our kitchen table that when we asked the question as to why they were even bothering with the smaller of the two mines that they were being encouraged by the State Government to mine the whole resource there and they weren’t allowed to leave any of the resource in the ground,” Mr Watt said.
As to why they were being urged to remove ‘all of the resource’ from the site? Mr Watt and his wife had questions about that as well.
“As they put it to us, the resource then becomes sterile and it can’t be mined at a later stage. And they had very little regard that this pit was only a few hundred metres from the river. I believe Whitehaven had this planned all along. They were never going to go ahead with the original application. They just put in new extensions rather than just push one gigantic mine through in one application.”
Other local residents are concerned about the effects of the mine expansion on their water source, just as the Watts are. The potential impacts on air quality, water quality, noise and light pollution are all concerns which are yet to be addressed by the firm.
Local member, Kevin Humphries, who supported the initial mining venture but not its expansion, hit back against the claims that the government are behind the push, and raised his concerns about these claims with ABC.
“If a company official is alluding to the fact that Government are wanting them to extend that mine and extract that coal over a shorter period of time as per the extension proposal I want to know who is purporting to represent government, because it’s not me,” said Humphries “If any of those comments have been said it may have come from a departmental person. But at the end of the day I want to know who said it, why, and in what context.”
The environmental impact statement (EIS) is yet to be lodged, and will ultimately affect the application. The expansion proposed is 20 times the original Rio Tinto plan, and will sit a mere 350 metres from the river. Including a rail viaduct and river crossing, the expansion will clearly have significant impact on the local area. Meanwhile, Whitehaven claims the economic benefits for the region will deliver a much-needed boost to the area. The EIS is expected to be lodged shortly, after which, Whitehaven will presumably host further discussions with the local community.