Protesters near Leard State Forest earlier this year.

Protesters near Leard State Forest earlier this year.

The Baird government is losing patience with delays by coal miners in submitting environment plans for the Leard State Forest in the state’s north even as land-clearing work continues in the area.

Whitehaven Coal and Japan's Idemitsu company are developing three coal mines in the area. Protesters have begun a third day of action on Friday to halt clearing at one of the sites, Whitehaven’s Maules Creek Coal mine.

The miners were granted an extension earlier this year to submit a regional biodiversity strategy for the Leard State Forest, much of which will be destroyed by the open-cut mines, including threatened Box-Gum woodland.

Environment Minister Rob Stokes told Fairfax Media he is “concerned” about the delays in the submission.

“This strategy is required to ensure that sufficient offsets are provided to address unavoidable impacts,” Mr Stokes said.

“It is a reasonable community expectation that consent approvals, including timeframes, will be fully complied with by consent holders.”

A spokesman for Whitehaven Coal said any suggestion the company was dragging its feet was "simplistic", adding it was critical that all stakeholders were satisfied the final document "reflects the original intent".

"With so many stakeholders involved - including multiple government agencies - each one has to shoulder responsibility for getting it finished," he said

Mining opponents

Concern about the miners' operations come just weeks after the Baird government suspending gas drilling by Metgasco near Bentley in the state's north-east. A failure by Metgasco to properly consult with the community over its plans was initially given as one reason for the licence suspension.

Georgina Woods, a spokeswoman for the Leard Forest Alliance welcomed the comments by Mr Stokes but said mining operations should be halted until the miners made clear what their plans for offsetting the forest’s destruction were.

The strategy could well be “a hollow promise”, said Ms Woods. “If the miners don’t have to submit a strategy until they’ve done all their clearing, then what’s the point?”

Major tree clearing in Leard State Forest for the Maules Creek Coal mine will be interrupted by protesters for a third day today, as blockade numbers swell in response to Government failure to respond to calls for the clearing to cease.

At the Maules Creek site, protesters including a 24-year-old woman suspended from a platform, are attempting to prevent bulldozers for land-clearing.

Opponents of the mine say the NSW Department of Planning and Environment changed the management plan two weeks ago, allowing Whitehaven to continue clearing forest into winter. Animals would be seeking to hibernate at this time of year and would be more vulnerable, the protesters say.

“Over 150 people have been arrested trying to stop this terrible mine in the last four months because the rules have been bent to breaking point for Whitehaven Coal and we're fed up with it," said Roselyn Druce, also of the alliance.

Whitehaven say they have had permission to clear during winter prior to this month.

“We want the NSW government to intervene, but if they won’t, we will fight Whitehaven Coal for every inch of this forest," Ms Druce said.