As the Independent Commission Against Corruption begins public hearings today into coal mining projects in the Bylong Valley, the Department of Planning continues to rush through the approval of the controversial coal mines.
The ICAC will begin hearing evidence this week concerning dealings between former Labor Ministers and Cascade Coal Pty Ltd, over the Mount Penny Coal Project near Mudgee. However the NSW Planning Department is continuing with the approval process for Mount Penny.
The Lock the Gate Alliance is calling on the Minister for Planning, Brad Hazzard, to freeze the approval process for the Mount Penny coal mine until the ICAC inquiry is completed, and the company is cleared of any wrong doing.
“The Mount Penny coal mine proposal is under a cloud of corruption, and must be put on hold,” said Steve Phillips, Hunter regional coordinator for Lock The Gate. “How can Minister Hazzard be processing an approval for a company and a project under investigation for corruption?”
The Mount Penny coal mine proposal has been met with strong opposition from the Bylong Valley community, who fear it would devastate the area. As well as NSW Government approval, the 1500 hectare open-cut proposal must get the green light from Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke, due to impacts on nationally listed threatened species and a critically endangered ecological community.
“Just two months ago Minister Hazzard betrayed NSW communities, and gave coal and gas mining companies a free pass to mine anywhere they want to in this state. Now, the Minister is pushing through mining approvals for projects under corruption investigation. Clearly, Brad Hazzard sees it as his role to go into bat for mining companies, regardless of the public interest.”
“We call on the NSW Government to start putting the public before mining companies. The Mount Penny coal proposal must be put on hold”, said Phillips.