The first major clearing of Leard State Forest for the controversial Maules Creek coal mine began on Wednesday morning but was quickly halted by protestors suspended from some of the trees that are threatened with clearing, the website frontlineaction.org reports.
Maules Creek woman Roselyn Druce, speaking from the protest said, ‘Things are going to come to a head quickly if they keep trying to clear this forest during winter: they shouldn’t be there, and we will be doing everything in our power to stop them.
‘The NSW environment minister, Rob Stokes, needs to intervene and give the wildlife of this forest a fighting chance.’
Her sentiments have been echoed by NSW Greens evnironment spokesperson Dr Mehreen Faruqi MLC, who called for the immediate suspension of land clearing at Maules Creek, which was enabled by a result of a recent change of approval conditions by the department of planning and environment.
‘Today widespread clearing has already begun, which puts at risk the rich biodiversity of New South Wales. The government must move immediately suspend the new licence conditions that allow clearing as we head into the winter months, when many native animals enter hibernation and will not be able to escape the chainsaws and bulldozers.
‘Last week on the International Day of Biological Diversity, I sent the minister for the environment a letter requesting him to intervene.
‘The Greens and many in the community are opposed to this massive coal mining project because of its destructive impacts on biodiversity, cultural heritage and its massive contribution to climate change: allowing clearing during the winter months will further compound these damaging impacts.
‘The original licence conditions at least restricted clearing in the winter months, and reverting to them will be vital for mitigating at least some of the destructive effects of the mine on native animals and biodiversity.
‘The government must also listen to local ecologists who have expressed deep concerns about the proposed offsetting proposal for the clearing of endangered ecological communities in the Leard State Forest, and launch an independent investigation into the ecological impacts of the mine.
‘I have seen for myself what is at stake in the fight against big coal when I camped at Maules Creek earlier this year; this is a battle the environment cannot afford to lose’, she said.
The company behind the mine, Whitehaven Coal, acquired the project during a merger with Nathan Tinkler’s Aston Resources in late 2011.
The chairman of Whitehaven, Mark Vaile, was chair of Aston during the time when Maules Creek was first proposed. He was also the deputy prime minister and leader of the federal National Party during the Howard years.
Fronting ICAC last week, Mr Tinkler denied telling associates to donate to the NSW National Party to the maximum allowable limit to bypass disclosure laws.
A blockade of the site has been underway for four months and over 150 people have been arrested, holding up work on the coal project. Protestors object to the impact the mine will have on Leard State Forest and Aboriginal cultural heritage, and the contribution the coal export industry makes to global climate change.