Whitehaven seeking to explore north of Narrabri

WHITEHAVEN Coal has applied for two exploration licences over 3700 hectares in an area known as “Gorman North” north of its Narrabri longwall mine in New South Wales.
Whitehaven seeking to explore north of Narrabri Whitehaven seeking to explore north of Narrabri Whitehaven seeking to explore north of Narrabri Whitehaven seeking to explore north of Narrabri Whitehaven seeking to explore north of Narrabri

The area is one of the land parcels Deputy Premier John Barilaro nominated last year in the Strategic Statement on Coal.

The area is one of the land parcels Deputy Premier John Barilaro nominated last year in the Strategic Statement on Coal as potentially available for coal exploration via the Strategic Release process, which involves preliminary environmental assessment and community consultation.

Similar plans to open areas of land for coal exploration near Rylstone were also announced by the NSW government.

In the 2020-21 financial year Whitehaven recognised significant expenses totalling $650 million relating to asset impairments, which included $548.7 million for Narrabri.

This charge reflects the reduction in the JORC coal reserves for the Narrabri mining lease, arising out of an optimisation plan that was developed to focus on the production of higher quality coal over the balance of mine life.

Last month Whitehaven Coal subsidiaries Narrabri Coal and Narrabri Coal Operations were convicted and fined a total of $372,500 in the New South Wales Land and Environment Court for a range of offences under the state's mining laws.

The convictions follow a prosecution by the NSW Resources Regulator concerning breaches of exploration licence EL6243 and mining lease ML1609, which form part of the Narrabri operations located 23km northwest of Boggabri.

Activist group Lock the Gate NSW spokeswoman Georgina Woods said Whitehaven should not be granted further exploration licences without community consultation.

She said Whitehaven was likely spooked by the community backlash to coal exploration around the Rylstone area, as well as sustained opposition to its Vickery project plans in the northwest.

"All across NSW, communities are standing up against coal mining companies and coal-friendly politicians," she said.

"People living within and near the Gorman North area should be able to expect the same opportunity for public consultation and proper process as those who live near Rylstone.

"NSW deputy premier John Barilaro needs to confirm there will be no double standard for the release of new coal exploration areas and that these areas will not be pre-emptively handed to Whitehaven without northwest communities having a chance to have their say."

Whitehaven said in its latest results announcement that the past year had included greater scrutiny of its corporate behaviour, whether around supply chain responsibility, respect in the workplace, or working with host communities including Traditional Owners.

"In addition, of course, COVID-19 has continued to pose challenges to governments, business and communities, while also reinforcing the vital role of our industry in supporting regional communities through the period of ongoing economic recovery," it stated.