Contributed from New South Wales
Australia has been lied to. Environmental protection rules are being pushed aside to help new coal mines to operate with impunity. A key centre is New South Wales, where the federal and state governments have allowed companies to push back deadlines to meet deadlines on their sites.
A beneficiary is Glencore, the world’s biggest mining company and sorry global history when it comes to the environment. Ulan mine near Mudgee in the central west of the state got eight extensions to avoid protecting damaged habitat over as many years. The hasn’t stopped operations from continuing and threatening box gum woodland and habitat for the swift parrot, regent honeyeater and large-eared pied bat.
Sign near Glencore’s Ulan mines claiming safe coal
Glencore’s Mount Owen mine is also being helped.
This not the only coal company benefiting. BHP’s Mount Arthur coalmine, Whitehaven’s Werris Creek and Maules Creek mines, Yancoal’s Mount Thorley Warkworth mine, New Hope’s Bengalla mine, MACH Energy’s Mount Pleasant mine, and Idemitsu’s Boggabri mine are examples.
Granting exemptions to complying with environmental laws means that penalties are not being imposed for violating them. Exemptions can keep on being granted for the same mine and generally are.
Kim Garratt, an investigator with the Australian Conservation Foundation, said the pattern of delays had set a precedent “for mining companies securing offsets only when it’s convenient for them, apparently without consequences.”
The impact on local biodiversity is real. Damage this and you damage the land, and this brings the addition of eventual economic costs on the community.
This is also about the failure to shift towards a carbon neutral future. That coal companies are being helped, at least in part, through the back door is testimony to the strength of the opposition of the Australian population and global pressure.
Australia has a broken environmental protection system and no plan to wean off carbon dependency.
An effective policy to protect biodiversity defends threatened species and avoids transferring the cost of the consequences to the wider community.
Failure to have effective environment protection laws encourages more investment in coal mines and therefore greater dependence on fossil fuels. Effective environment protection laws work the other way and are part of a transition towards a clean and carbon neutral economy.
It is obvious that the federal and New South Wales governments don’t want to go down this road.