Rapid and meaningful change to Government policy and regulation is needed to protect farmland and water resources from the proposed Bylong coal mine, according to the Lock The Gate Alliance, which has used its submission on the project to issue a scathing critique of the government's failure to prevent land use conflict.
A submission from the Department of Primary Industries on the proposal by KEPCO to construct two open cut mines and one longwall operation in the spectacular Bylong Valley raises also serious concerns about the impact of the project on agricultural land and groundwater resources. Lock the Gate Alliance and DPI water have both warned that there may not be enough water in the valley to meet the proposed mine's demand, and unforeseen impacts on agricultural water users are likely and could be severe.
"That this project is sliding through the assessment system towards approval demonstrates the total failure of the Baird government to implement meaningful policy reform to protect agriculture and water resources from coal mining," said Lock The Gate's regional coordinator for the Hunter, Steve Phillips.
"The government really must intervene before this goes any further and put laws in place to protect good farmland and productive aquifers from mining. The residents of the Bylong Valley, like communities all around NSW, want action to protect land and water resources from coal mining. The government's failure to deliver this is nothing short of criminal.
"There is no policy or law in place to prevent the draining of a highly productive alluvial aquifer or the tearing up of highly productive agricultural soils and land identified as part of a critical industry cluster, both of which this mine will do. There are not clear boundaries established to ensure that the air quality and noise impacts of this mine do not spread across the rural Bylong Valley and further empty it of people and activity other than mining, or to require the proponent to operate within only daylight hours and at a scale that would lessen the chance of this occurring."
Lock The Gate Alliance is calling on the Baird Government to pause approvals for new or expanding coal mine projects, until meaningful policy reform to protect land and water resources, and local communities, has been implemented.
"We can't just keep approving new coal projects that rip up farmland and drain aquifers," said Phillips. "The impacts of coal mining on local communities, on biodiversity, on agriculture and water resources, are at crisis point. Yet the coal industry is is turmoil and laying people off. Where is this all heading? A dozen damaging projects have been approved since the government's broken promise to protect water catchments and farmland from mining. There's no need for any more of this - we've got to pause these approvals till we have policy in place to protect our state, and plan for the future."
For further comment: Steve Phillips, 0437 275 119
Lock the Gate's submission on the Bylong project is available here.