WHITEHAVEN Coal has again outbid local farmers to secure precious water for its Maules Creek coal mine, paying far above the usual market value.
Earlier this month, the company paid $5450 a megalitre for permanent groundwater licences in Zone 5 of the Namoi alluvial water sharing plan.
In February, the company forked out more than $650,000 on water licences in Zones 4 and 11, paying up to $5100 a megalitre.
In both cases, farmers were among the losing bidders. For the last decade, permanent water has traded at about $3500 a megalitre.
Boggabri farmer David Watt said it wasn't clear why Whitehaven required so much water, because the company was not originally expected to take water directly out of Upper Namoi Zones 4, 5, or 11 groundwater systems, as per its environmental assessment.
"Yet here it is, creating conflict with farmers because it is expanding its water take dramatically at a time when drought is ravaging the country," Mr Watt said.
"There is a lot of pressure on water resources at the moment and farmers just don't stand a chance.
"If the mine is now buying more and more Upper Namoi Zone 4, 5 and 11 water licences, this must mean the water demand of the mine is larger than was anticipated."
The Leader asked Whitehaven why it purchased the water and if the company's current groundwater licences were insufficient.
"It is important to note we look at our water allocations both at an individual site level and a group level," a Whitehaven spokesperson said.
"We will seek to accommodate all water requirements from within our existing approved allocations. Recent purchases do not change this position."
Mr Watt said the purchase of the water further alienated Whitehaven, which is also seeking to expand its Vickery mine, from the community.
"This company is operating without a social licence," Mr Watt said.