Bulga residents, battling Rio Tinto’s Warkworth mine extension in the Hunter Valley, have welcomed the Baird government’s draft changes to NSW mining planning policy as a step forward in bringing back balance to consideration of the environmental and social impacts of mining projects.
Alan Leslie, spokesperson for the Bulga Milbrodale Progress Association said, "These proposed reforms, which right the wrongs of the past, are well overdue.
"It was our two court wins which led the O’Farrell government’s former Resources and Energy Minister Chris Hartcher, to work hand in glove with Rio Tinto and amend planning policy to favour big miners, distorting an already distorted system.
"Planning Minister Rob Stokes is correct to recognise that communities and the environment were big losers under the government’s 2013 bankrupt planning ‘reforms’.
"Economics should never have been prioritised above noise and dust pollution and the potential destruction of villages like Bulga, farming land, vineyards, horse studs, precious water resources, threatened species and Aboriginal heritage.
"We hope the changes, which are a tribute to coal communities battling destructive projects around NSW, are sufficient for the PAC to reject Rio Tinto’s latest tilt at getting its project through. The Bulga community and our growing band of supporters will not rest until Rio Tinto accepts defeat and our town is protected from destruction.
"The Planning and Assessment Commission may make a final decision on Rio Tinto’s mine expansion within weeks. After five years battling this project, we have our fingers crossed that this proposed new planning policy assists the PAC to make the right decision and the mine expansion is rejected once and for all,” Mr Leslie said.
Georgina Woods, spokesperson for Lock the Gate Alliance said, "It is hugely significant that this change is being made prior to the final decision on the Warkworth expansion. There is a lot more work to do to restore the balance in New South Wales, but Minister Stokes has set the ball rolling with this crucial first step, and we are hopeful that it will bear fruit in better decisions about mines from this day forward."