Whitehaven is committed to safe, responsible and sustainable environmental management across all aspects of our operations.
We are mindful of the impact of our operations on the environment and surrounding communities and undergo extensive assessments for water surface, groundwater, flood impact, flora and fauna, aboriginal cultural heritage, historical heritage, air quality, agriculture and geochemistry impacts.
Across our operations Whitehaven mines only about 2 per cent of the land we own. Nearly 30,000 hectares of Whitehaven land is currently for agricultural purposes and a further 20,000 hectares is designated as conservation areas in perpetuity.
High Quality Coal and Carbon Emissions
Coal, especially the high quality coal that Whitehaven produces, has been the fastest growing energy source over the last ten years and global demand continues to rise, especially in South East Asia. This trend to new, more efficient coal fired generation in the Asia-Pacific is critical to Australia’s role as a key energy exporter, and high quality Australian coal is ideally suited to help bring about a lower emissions future, today.
Whitehaven mines some of the best quality coal in the world, high in energy and low in ash, sulphur and other impurities. Our coal assists key customers, such as the Governments of Japan and Korea, reduce their carbon emissions by up to 30 per cent.
Our operations can generate dust and we have developed and implemented systems that allow us to monitor dust levels so that we not only comply with our licence conditions but also respond pre-emptively by applying appropriate controls. Our continuous monitoring systems allow us to manage our activities and to minimise the impact of dust generation. Our operations are the subject of strict dust limits that are overseen by several state government regulatory bodies. The results of our dust monitoring are made available on our website and are distributed in each meeting of the relevant Community Consultative Committee.
We use water at every stage of our business: for exploration, mining, processing and rehabilitation, as well as for potable consumption. We own substantial water rights that were generally either acquired as part of our acquisition of farming land or were purchased from government bodies to support our mining operations. Our operations are committed to using water responsibly given that water is a key resource for communities and industries
in the Gunnedah Basin.
We must manage water in a way that minimises collection and use of clean water runoff whilst containing and maximising re-use of sediment laden and mine impacted water on-site. Water discharges are only permitted from licenced, monitored discharge points and any discharge must fall within strict water quality guidelines.
For example, each year rainfall and seepage into the mine provides Werris Creek with approximately 750 megalitres of water, we use about 50% of that in our mining operation and have been evaporating about 50% into the atmosphere.
Werris Creek mine is seeking state government approval to provide water that is excess to our mining needs to local farmers for use in irrigated farming rather than evaporate it.
Our management of water is the subject of strict monitoring that is overseen by several state government regulatory bodies. Information on our management
of water is made available on our website and in each meeting of the relevant Community Consultative Committee.
Whitehaven seeks sustainable stewardship of the land that we manage. About 2%, or less than 2,000 hectares, of the 63,000 hectares of land that we own is actively involved in mining or is being rehabilitated. Rehabilitated land is generally returned to either native vegetation or pasture – like our Canyon mine.
Biological diversity – or biodiversity – is the term given to the variety of life on Earth. It is the variety within and between all species of plants, animals and micro-organisms and the ecosystems within which they live and interact.
Whitehaven has 22,000 hectares of land that are being managed as biodiversity offset areas. That is about the same size as 40,000 football fields’, about 200,000 housing lots of 1/4 acre or about 7 times the size of the greater city of Tamworth. It is also more than 10 times the area of land currently disturbed or under rehabilitation by our operations. The offset areas have been carefully selected, based on guidance from independent experts and regulatory authorities, to ensure they represent like-for-like or better biodiversity values than the areas that will be impacted by operations.
Whitehaven’s approach to biodiversity aims to ensure that the actions we take are designed to outweigh the inevitable disturbances at our sites associated with mining. To achieve this we work closely with local communities, conservation advisors and environmental protection organisations, including
various state and federal government bodies.
During our mining operations we generate waste. We work on strategies that avoid, reduce, recycle and dispose of waste.
Our strategy for mineral waste management includes segregation and placement of overburden, tailings and reject materials in engineered waste dumps which are designed to be safe, stable and non-polluting. We segregate top soils at the initial clearing stages to ensure they are available for rehabilitation activities and we include water management structures in the design.
Non-mineral waste from mining operations is removed by registered contractors who recycle or dispose of the waste appropriately. Our non-mineral waste management activities this year included recycling of cardboard, paper and printer ink cartridges and engaging a contractor at Werris Creek mine to provide a total waste management service for the site. This initiative
helped the site with its regulatory compliance and reporting requirements while also collecting recycling rebates and delivering decreases in waste disposal costs. Whitehaven is investigating the implementation of this initiative across the Group.
ENERGY AND CLIMATE CHANGE
Whitehaven is both a user and producer of energy. We advocate that increasing demand for energy by global customers and the challenge of addressing climate
change issues are best met by companies, government and the community working together. Absent broad scale adoption of ultra super critical energy generation technology and the use of higher quality coals, the developing
world’s increasing need for secure, affordable energy to fuel continued
economic growth clashes with the scale of emission reductions being sought by the developed world.
To assess how carbon policy and regulation will impact our business we closely monitor national and international climate and energy policy developments. We advocate for policies that are environmentally effective and economically efficient.
At an operational level we minimise our energy use where possible. Our energy intensity continues to decrease as we become more efficient and our greenhouse gas emissions per saleable tonne of coal produced have declined from that reported in previous years.
We believe that the high energy, low ash product that we produce will become an increasingly important source of the move to using higher quality coal for power generation.
We are subject to various environmental regulations and are required to disclose Group-level environmental incidents, fines and complaints.