Indigenous protesters claim mine approved last week would destroy local heritage sites in northern New South Wales
Protesters have vowed to continue their fight against a Whitehaven Coal mine approved last week, saying it will destroy local heritage sites in north-west New South Wales.
Workers walked off the job at the $767 million Maules Creek project on Monday morning as more than 50 Gomeroi traditional owners formed a picket line.
Whitehaven received final approvals to begin construction at the site near Boggabri last Thursday after a three-year process.
Gomeroi traditional owner Stephen Talbot says the Maules Creek mine will clear more than 4000 acres of “culturally significant forest, artefacts and cultural values” which have not been properly assessed.
“The forest contains cultural heritage sites, food sources, and totems of our people, and most of them will be permanently destroyed by the planned mine,” Talbot said in a statement.
“There hasn’t been a proper consultation process, the management plan is flawed and we don’t believe that our people have been treated with proper respect or that our concerns about the destruction of cultural heritage have been addressed.”
A Whitehaven spokeswoman, however, said there had been discussions with Aboriginal representative groups since the earliest days of the Maules Creek project.
“A detailed Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Impact Assessment was included … as part of the planning process and consultation has continued throughout the project,” she said.
“Our Aboriginal Archaeology and Cultural Heritage Management Plan was lodged with the state government and has been approved.
“The management plan details the consultation process to date and the planned approach to consultation moving forward, as well as the management of salvage works.”
Discussions were continuing with protesters.
Talbot said demonstrators would return to Boggabri Park in greater numbers on Tuesday to continue their protest.
He called for all salvage works to be halted until community concerns had been addressed.
Whitehaven is permitted to extract up to 13 million tonnes of coal per annum and rail 12.4 million tonnes from the site each year.
The federal government gave conditional approval for the project in February this year.