November 8, 2013

Whitehaven AGM

With its proposed development of a 2000 hectare open-cut coal mine at Maules Creek in north-west New South Wales, Whitehaven Coal is wrecklessly playing with our future climate.  Not only will the proposed mine clear over 1600 acres of unique bushland and farmland home to a number of endangered plants and animals but once the mine isoperational it will release around 30 million tonnes of CO2 every year.  That is about the same amount as the total yearly emissions from the whole of New Zealand.

Stopping the progress of this mine is important on so many fronts – for the health of the local community and local wildlife, to safeguard agricultural land, clean water supplies and threatened species and of course it is important on a global level as we will all be suffering the consequences of climate change.

Whitehaven’s AGM last week was a great opportunity for shareholders and others concerned to voice their disapproval about the company’s intentions.  
John Carroll attended the meeting and wrote the following account:

Everything seemed to go well at the AGM. There was a small difficulty on the way as no record of our names could be found on the attendees list and we were told that we could only be visitors.  This would not do, we wanted to ask questions.  My companion,Nick, told the gatekeepers he was sure that they had been notified of our acting as proxies. They looked a bit harder and luckily let us in.
While we were waiting for the meeting to start I noticed people everywhere looking at the brochure that the demonstrators had handed out at the door. Even the board members were looking at it!   We can only hope that the messages start to sink in.
Our questions went fine. My question about the carbon budget was only answered briefly – basically saying that they were producing high quality coal, so any down turn in production would happen elsewhere in more inferior mines. Mark Vale, Chairman of Whitehaven, said they would send me a more detailed response. 
Colin stood up with his banner and spoke – a security guard took the banner from him and escorted him out.  That was the end of that!
Another lady asked a question about sustainability, in particular questioning whether they really meant it. She also questioned the insensitive terminology they used in regard to recovering Aboriginal graves and artefacts.
At the end of the meeting we were invited to share a cup of tea with the board etc. I ended up speaking to a man interested in investing in the company. He saw it as a good way to make some money. I explained how I was a pastor, and was here because of concern for the future of humanity. He was quite interested, and we discussed the negative side of coal mining, and the possibility of mass movements against it. It turned out he was from St Marys, the neighbouring suburb to mine!