Six years after the mining licence was granted by disgraced former NSW Minister Ian Macdonald, Federal environment Minister Greg Hunt has approved the proposed Shenhua Watermark coal mine, on the Liverpool Plains near Gunnadah.
The project area also includes Breeza State Forest, although this is supposed to be outside of the areas to be dug up.
According to the project proponents, koalas have been consistently detected ‘in all eucalypt dominated woodland’ within the project area and Breeza State Forest. The outcomes of koala surveys found ” . . . Approximately half of the SAT plots (48%) yielded low activity levels, however, the remaining plots yielded medium (11%) and high (41%) activity, indicating core Koala habitat.
Unfortunately, koalas were not listed under the EPBC Act when the project was determined to be a ‘controlled action’, so the ball falls back into the State governments hands.
Thankfully, with the support of Environmental Defenders Office, the local Upper Mooki landcare group have decided to challenge the State approval in the Land and Environment court. Well aware of probable poor outcomes, NSW Environment Minster Rob Stokes has announced a proposed change to the state mining policy, placing greater emphasis on environmental and social issues, in addition to economic.
While there may not be a connection, Shenhua Watermark’s proposed Koala Management Plan has been removed from its website.
Back in the Eden region, ABC radio reported on a local landholder, sick of the bulldust coming from Tantawangalo Mount Rd, who used his tractor to block logging truck access to Tantawangalo State Forest.
According to the ABC ” . . . Mr Miller says he was told by Forests NSW that to transport logs to the chipmill at Eden they would use a forestry road across to the highway rather than the public road that passes by the Miller’s farm.”
The map above shows compartments FCNSW has scheduled for logging in the 2014/15 financial year in Tantawangalo SF, although none of the Harvesting Plans for the compartments are on FCNSW’s website.
The latest Tantawangalo info on FCNSW’s website is the HP for Cpt 2459, dated 18-10-12, now three financial years ago. According to this document ‘ Haulage south on Tantawangalo Mount Rd not permitted in dry conditions when dust will be created.’ On this occasion FCNSW also intended to log a nearby travelling stock reserve.
Despite the previous intention not to use Tantawangalo Mount Rd ,an indignant Peter Mitchell, boss of South East Fibre Exports, turned up at Mr Millers blockade and asked why he bought a farm close to a dirt road.
FCNSW is supposed to explain the situation on Monday, although if one bloke and a tractor can upset SEFE so much, I wonder how things will go when they turn up to log critical koala habitat.