Whitehaven mine plan may be wrong: Greens
Market watch top headlines
CANBERRA, Feb 7 AAP
February 07 2013, 11:14AM
An Australian Greens senator says Whitehaven Coal may have provided false information when applying to develop a controversial mine in northeast NSW.
The company had been waiting on Thursday to find out if its flagship Maules Creek coal proposal would get the go-ahead but Environment Minister Tony Burke has now delayed a decision until April 30.
Community and environment activists say the project threatens koala habitats, thousands of hectares of old-growth forests and will force farmers off their land through soil damage.
The issue gained notoriety after activist Jonathan Moylan admitted sending a press release to media outlets in early January falsely claiming the ANZ Bank had pulled its $1.2 billion loan to the miner.
Now Senator Larissa Waters claims Whitehaven may have "misdescribed" the compensation it plans on offering in exchange for mining rights.
The company has pledged to offset any potential environmental damage from its open-cut coalmine with a tranche of forest, she says.
But experts commissioned by the Maules Creek community claim the trees proposed as compensation in Whitehaven's application were unsuitable as an ecological replacement for those under threat.
"The community said that this is the company providing false and misleading information in their application," Senator Waters told reporters in Canberra on Thursday.
"Now that's against the law, if it's true."
Mr Burke should call in the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) to investigate the allegations before handing down his final decision on Maules Creek, Senator Waters said.
ASIC already is investigating if any laws were broken after Mr Moylan's hoax temporarily wiped $314 million from the value of Whitehaven Coal during trading on the Australian Securities Exchange.
Anyone convicted of disseminating false information to the share market that could impact on market securities faces a maximum fine of almost $500,000 or a potential 10-year jail sentence.