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Whitehaven's Destructive Coal Expansion

Causing Climate Chaos

Whitehaven Coal is all about coal - the single biggest driver of the global climate crisis. Whitehaven Coal have no plans to reduce their Scope 3 emissions or reduce their exposure to thermal coal. Instead, they are digging in to the most damaging resource for our climate.

Alarmingly, Whitehaven Coal plans to double its current coal production through five major new coal projects. When emissions from digging up and burning the coal are added, over their lifetimes just three of those mines would unleash almost 1.1 billion tonnes of carbon emissions, the equivalent of almost twice Australia’s total annual emissions. Whitehaven Coal also wants to explore a brand new coal deposit near Narrabri at Gorman North, and has plans to expand and extend their Maules Creek coal mine.

In 2023 Whitehaven Coal proved once again that it has no business plan other than to expand coal mining for decades into the future when it purchased two more massive second-rate coal mines from BHP Mitsubishi. Whitehaven Coal also acquired the tenements for the proposed Blackwater South coal mine - a massive greenfield coal mine that could create an additional 1.975 million tonnes of carbon emissions, clear almost 7000 hectares of habitat for the endangered koala, and run until 2116.

Whitehaven Coal’s impact on the global climate is made even worse by the significant amounts of methane emitted from their coal mines. Methane is a highly potent greenhouse gas with a short-term warming impact 80 times greater than carbon dioxide. Analysis by Ember has shown that Whitehaven Coal have been massively underestimating their methane emissions. Methane emissions at Whitehaven Coal’s Narrabri coal mine are 5 times higher than Whitehaven estimated in their Environmental Impact Statements. Whitehaven Coal are planning a significant expansion of their Narrabri coal mine, which would make it the gassiest coal mine in Australia. Alarmingly, Whitehaven Coal could create an additional 1 million tonnes of methane by 2050.

Whitehaven Emissions

The International Energy Agency and the world’s scientists say all coal expansion must stop immediately in order to achieve the Paris Agreement goal of keeping global heating below the safer limit of 1.5’C and reach net zero emission by 2050. But Whitehaven has justified its coal expansion plans by referring to coal demand scenarios consistent with 3'C of global heating - a truly catastrophic level of heating that would bring widespread ecological and societal collapse.

Whitehaven’s proposed coal expansion flies in the face of global efforts to combat climate change and will lead to more intense and frequent extreme weather events like the fires, floods and heatwaves that have devastated Australian communities in recent years. Bushfire Survivors For Climate Action launched a legal challenge against Whitehaven Coal's Narrabri Mine extension, arguing that approval of the mine extension was "unreasonable, irrational and illogical" in light of the projects' impacts in driving further climate change-fuelled extreme weather events.

Existing pin = existing coal mine  red pin= new coal project


Narrabri Underground Stage 3

  • 480 Mt CO2-e lifetime emissions (Scope 1, 2 and 3)
  • Will extend the life of Whitehaven’s existing Narrabri mine from 2031 to 2044
  • If WHC go ahead and build the NU Stage 3 project, it is likely to become the most polluting thermal coal mine in Australia for Scope 1 GHG emissions.


Winchester South

New coalfield closer to Narrabri called "Gorman North"

Maules Creek mine extension


4th "Gorman North" project emissions not yet available. Data: Market Forces

"Gorman North" project and Maules Creek expansion emissions not yet available. Data: Market Forces


The Gorman North area was identified as an area for potential future mining operations in the state government's 2020 Future of Coal Statement.

The Gorman North area was identified as an area for potential future mining operations in the state government's 2020 Future of Coal Statement.

Whitehaven Coal launched bid to expand and extend operations at its controversial Maules Creek Mine June 2023. 

Whitehaven Coal has also blown billions of dollars buying two massive low-quality coal mines from BHP Mitsubishi. 

Undermining land rights and destroying cultural heritage

Whitehaven’s coal mines destroy Aboriginal land and water and sacred sites and erase cultural heritage.

Whitehaven Coal’s mines have been strongly opposed by Gomeroi Traditional Owners. In 2014 the Gomeroi sought a stop work order at Whitehaven Coal’s Maules Creek Coal Mine over concerns the mine clearing could be destroying a number of important burial and cultural sites. Whitehaven Coal denied Gomeroi elders access to their own sacred sites and bulldozed their burial sites.

In 2021, a group of Gomeroi elders released a statement calling for a stop to all new coal and gas projects, and expansions of existing projects, on Gomeroi country.

Destroying the environment and breaking the law

Whitehaven Coal are serial offenders who have broken the law and breached their environmental conditions over 100 times repeatedly broken the law, with devastating consequences for water, the environment, Aboriginal cultural heritage and local communities. FOI documents have revealed that Whitehaven Coal’s rap sheet is so long that not even Whitehaven Coal knows how many crimes it has committed.

Whitehaven’s 4 existing open cut coal mines mines in the Namoi Valley in Northwestern NSW have cleared hundreds of hectares of the beloved and environmentally significant Leard State Forest, and had significant impacts on the local farming community with mine buy-outs, intolerable noise and dust pollution, and loss of stream flow in local creeks.

Local farmers, Traditional Owners, and conservationists have fought for over a decade to protect the cultural and environmental values of Leard Forest and the fertile lands and important water sources of the Namoi Valley, and to expose Whitehaven's illegal operations in the region.

Whitehaven Coal have been found guilty or investigated 35 times and incurred almost $1.5 million in total penalties for offences that have included stealing 1 billion litres of water without a licence during the worst drought on record at the Maules Creek Coal mine, polluting waterways, damaging Aboriginal heritage sites and illegally clearing hundreds of hectares of endangered forest. Whitehaven Coal are also facing criminal charges for an allegedly negligent mine blast that injured workers at a neighbouring coal mine.
Whitehaven Coal are also one of the biggest threats to the koala, which has recently been listed as endangered. Whitehaven Coal’s Narrabri Underground coal mine expansion will destroy almost 500 hectares of koala habitat. Whitehaven Coal have also purchased the tenements for the proposed Blackwater South Coal Mine, which could clear almost 7000 hectares of koala habitat, pushing this iconic animal closer to extinction.

Lock The Gate’s Whitehaven Coal Shame File reveals the full extent of Whitehaven’s destructive and often illegal behaviour from 2012, which covers almost every conceivable type of environmental harm.

Whitehaven Coal’s criminal behaviour and rampant destruction will massively increase if their new coal projects are allowed to proceed.

A decade of incidents, fines and breaches of the law by Whitehaven coal






Nov 2021


NRAR fine for illegally taking 1B L of surface water over 3 years, without a licence

Maules Creek


Nov 2021

Penalty notices 1

Fines issued and environmental audit ordered by the EPA after the third alleged illegal discharge of dirty water since 2020.



Nov 2021


EPA is investigating two unsafe blasts causing toxic fumes to leave the mine area

Maules Creek


Aug 2021

Enforceable undertaking

Agreement with NRAR to dismantle illegal dam and build water management structures in keeping with mine approval

Maules Creek


Aug 2021

Official caution 2

By the EPA, for burying waste tyres on-site without being licenced to do so

Maules Creek, Tarrawonga and Werris Creek.


March 2021


EPA is investigating a pollution event where styrofoam balls flowed into Back Creek & Maules Creek

Maules Creek


Oct 2020

Fine 3

NSW Resources Regulator Penalty Notice for erosion of emplacement area causing pollution



Oct 2020

Fine 4

Uncontrolled water discharge

Werris Creek

$15,000 fine

Oct 2020

Official Caution 5

NSW Resources Regulator caution for not displaying plans



Sept 2020

Warning Letter 6

Department of Planning warning for failing to identify and protect a cultural heritage site

Narrabri Underground


Aug 2020

Enforceable Undertaking 7

Workplace health and safety submission by Resources regulator over serious WHS incident

Maules Creek

$800,000 plus costs

Aug 2020

Fine 8

Pollution of a local creek



For incidents from 2012 - 2020 see Lock The Gate's shame file here.

Like many mining giants, Whitehaven uses political donations, lobbying and proximity to politicians to push for political outcomes that benefit them to the detriment of the environment and Australian democracy. Whitehaven are a member of the Minerals Council of Australia (MCA) and the Queensland Resources Council, and have staff in board positions on these peak lobbying bodies that aggressively campaign against action on climate change.

Whitehaven’s chairman Mark Vaile is a former Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the National Party - a particularly stark example of the revolving door between Australian governments and the fossil fuel industry.

Whitehaven has donated $140,000 to the Liberal Party in the last 10 years. In 2022 the Morrison Government paid Whitehaven $31M to supply a “donation” of coal to help the war effort in Ukraine, despite there apparently being no proper tender process or plan for how the coal would actually be delivered. Whitehaven said the 70,000 tonne “donation” - enough to power a medium-sized generator for a few days - would support Ukraine’s “energy security and independence”.

More -

In 2020, eight young people and a nun led a landmark legal challenge against Whitehaven’s Vickery coal mine. In a world-first ruling in May 2021, Justice Bromberg of the Federal Court held that the environment minister has a duty of care to protect young people from the harms caused by climate change. The Court found that the impacts of global warming on young people “might fairly be described as the greatest intergenerational injustice ever inflicted by one generation of humans upon the next”.

The Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley later successfully appealed the court’s decision that she has a duty of care to protect young people from climate change, allowing Vickery to proceed.

“The decisions that they make right now will impact us in the future. We’re the ones who are going to have to live with the decisions, we’re going to have to raise the next generation under those decisions, and we just want a future that is guaranteed to be safe for us. They truly do have a duty of care towards us.”
- Anjali Sharma, 17-year-old lead applicant in the case against Whitehaven's Vickery coal mine.

Whitehaven's Destructive Coal Expansion
Whitehaven's Destructive Coal Expansion
The world’s scientists warn that all coal expansion must stop immediately to avoid runaway global heating. Yet Whitehaven is planning to double its coal production with four major new coal projects.