Mount Pleasant mine approval set to be suspended after legless lizard discovered, Lock the Gate Alliance says

A leading environmental lobby group is calling for the determination of a major mine expansion in New South Wales’ Hunter Valley to be put on hold, after the discovery of a potentially endangered new species of lizard.

The NSW Independent Planning Commission (IPC) is examining mining company MACH Energy’s proposal to extend the life and mining capacity of its mine near Muswellbrook.

The company plans to extract an additional 247 million tonnes of coal at its Mount Pleasant operation and extend the mine life by 22 years to the end of 2048.

The IPC is expected to issue its decision this week, but the Lock the Gate Alliance (LTGA) wants the new information about the lizard to be taken into account.

A legless lizard found at the mine site, believed to be the Striped Delma (Delma odd), has now been identified as the Hunter Valley Delma (Delma vescolineata).

The Hunter Valley Delma was identified in July this year by researchers from the Australian Museum. It is endemic to the Hunter Valley and the Liverpool Plains.

LTGA NSW co-ordinator Nic Clyde said with so little information on the new species the IPC’s decision should be put on hold.

Nic Clyde says the Hunter Valley Delma needs further research to determine its conservation status.(ABC Illawarra: Tim Fernandez)

“It would seem extraordinary to immediately allow more vegetation to be cleared at Mount Pleasant and to expand massively again – double the size of this coal mine…before we even understood the impact on this new species. “said Mr. Clyde.

“A new species of life seems like a pretty valuable discovery to me and something really worth protecting.

“It’s a bit of an unusual situation…because the discovery of this species is so new. My understanding is that it’s not actually recorded [under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (BC) Act or the NSW Biodiversity Conservation Act] Again.”

Mr Clyde says LTGA will write to Federal Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek, who has the final say on the mine expansion.

“One of the first things she did as minister was to release the state of the environment report, which revealed a shocking rate of biodiversity loss in Australia,” he said. declared.

“We think it’s quite urgent that the new minister take an urgent look at the situation to see what she can do with her federal powers to protect this new lizard.”

MACH offers options

The IPC said the correspondence “does not contain additional information material to the determination” of the proposed expansion of the mine.

In correspondence with the NSW Department of Planning and Environment, MACH offered options to protect the species.

Layers of coal in an open pit.
The NSW IPC is due to decide on a planned mine expansion near Muswellbrook.(ABC Upper Hunter: Mathew Perry)

MACH’s managing director of resource development, Chris Lauritzen, said the company would come up with a new consent condition if needed.

“MACH is also aware that the new species of legless lizard (Delma vescolineata) has only recently been identified as a separate species and over time may also be listed as a threatened species under British Columbia law,” Lauritzen said.

“Based on this, MACH is prepared to propose a new consent condition that would require MACH to provide biodiversity offsets for the new species of legless lizard (Delma vescolineata), should it be listed under BC law within 12 months of project determination. »

The Planning Department’s Biodiversity and Conservation Division has recommended that “part of the obligation to offset impacts on this species could be met by funding a conservation strategy for the species under the scheme Save our species”.

“This is because little is known about the species and its conservation needs, so terrestrial offsets have made [may] not enough to mitigate the impacts,” said Steven Crick, senior team leader for the department’s Hunter Central Coast Branch.

“Based on the information available to date, it is evident that further investigation and research is needed to effectively manage and protect the species in the wild.”

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