Coal mine compliance welcome, but loose conditions won’t protect communities

Published: May 18, 2015

Lock the Gate Alliance has welcomed the announcement that more resources and staff will be allocated to coal mine compliance and penalties for on the spot fines increased, but says compliance is only effective if adequate conditions are imposed in the first place.

Planning Minister Rob Stokes has announced this morning additional compliance staff for the Department of Planning and an increase in the maximum on-the-spot penalty for breaches of consent conditions for coal mines.

Lock the Gate Alliance NSW Coordinator, Georgina Woods said, "Any increased attention to compliance is welcome and we look forward to improved communication and transparency from the Planning Department. Our members and groups are directly impacted by coal and gas mining and at the frontline of compliance breaches. But there is a more fundamental problem that the Minister needs to tackle: enforcement of inadequate environmental controls is not going to provide the protection people and the environment need.

"The conditions must be stricter. At the moment, the rules being imposed on the mines are not strong enough to ensure that people and businesses around the mine can live and operate in peace, they are tailored to the profit demands of the coal mining companies, and the public interest too often comes last.

"Too often, we see damage being done by mines, like cracking or collapsing of creeks, or air quality in local towns that breaches national standards, but monthly compliance checks by the Department of Planning report few or no breaches of conditions. Clearly, this indicates that it is the approval and conditions themselves that need reviewing and tightening.

"The noise, dust and blasting from the mines is making life intolerable for people in the Hunter Valley and that is in part because they have been allowed to become too big, and move too close to homes and schools.

"We would like the Minister to conduct a thorough audit of the conditions of consent for coal mines, and whether they are actually protecting water resources, communities and the environment, and to ensure that his Department and the Planning and Assessment Commission are imposing conditions that actually protect people and the environment and rejecting applications for mines and expansions where basic protections can’t be ensured."

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