Object to the proposed Wambo-United monster mine

Published: September 07, 2016

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The next big open cut coal mine slated to gouge the Hunter Valley is the proposed Wambo-United super pit project and we need your help in objecting to it.

Submissions are due by 22 September.

There’s a few reasons why this is an important mine for us to make a fuss about.

  • It’s one of the 16 new mining areas proposed under the Upper Hunter Strategic Assessment, which the public still hasn't seen.

  • It’s the first mine to be assessed under the state's new Economic Assessment Guidelines, brought in to inject some long overdue reality into the way the NSW Government thinks about mining’s role in the economy.

  • It’s an exemplar of the rehabilitation gap. The United mine, one of the two proposing to expand with this project has been in “care and maintenance” since 2010, and was supposed to cease mining in 2012. Instead of cleaning up and closing, United has done no rehabilitation for more than a year, in anticipation of this project re-opening the site.

 How to lodge your objection

You can make a submission online via the Department of Planning’s Major Projects register.

Visit the page for this project and scroll down to fill out the submission form. Make sure you tick the objection box

Here are some points you might like to raise.

  • This project proposes clearing 464ha of vegetation, close to half of which is Central Hunter Valley Eucalypt Forest, a critically endangered ecological community under the Environment Protection Biodiversity Conservation Act.

  • The impacts of this project on biodiversity will be unacceptable and it must be refused development consent. It will clear 223ha of a critically endangered ecological community, including moderate to good quality patches that are critical to the community’s survival.

  • The proponent is offering a 'biodiversity offset' package that will protect just 7% of the required area of this community protection as existing woodland. In contrast 56% of the offset requirement is proposed to be met through future mine rehabilitation. This is a clear violation of the 25% limit on meeting offset obligations through mine rehab promises, and is a clear indication that impacts on this community cannot be offset and the mine should be refused consent.

  • 38 nearby residences are predicted to be impacted by increased noise pollution from this project. This area of the Hunter has been severely depopulated because of large scale mining, and further loss of farmers and private residents will cause ongoing destruction of regional social fabric. Increased dust emissions will also exacerbate health problems in the region.
  • Threatened species such as the Spotted-tailed Quoll will lose important habitat if this project proceeds. These species are already in severe trouble and any further loss of habitat will drive them towards extinction.
  • This mine and the three surrounding it will cause more than two metres draw down in the productive alluvial aquifers of the Hunter River and Wollombi Brook. The cumulative loss of water and productivity in these water sources and the wholesale destruction of surface water catchments for their tributaries is already too great.

  • This project has been developed at the expense of the owners of the United mine fulfilling obligations to close and remediate a mine that has been inoperational for six years and which was supposed to cease mining altogether four years ago.

  • It’s going to leave behind two final voids, and delay rehabilitation at both the United and Wambo mine sites. Final voids are an unacceptable impact of mining that damage waterways for hundreds of years into the future, and are not wanted by the NSW community.

  • This is the first mine to be assessed under new economic assessment guidelines, but the economics of it don’t stack up.

  • There’s increased unemployment in the local area for this project since early 2014. Over the same period at least half a dozen damaging mine expansion projects were approved by the State Government on the basis that doing so would be good for employment in the region. New mine approvals are not securing jobs in the Hunter, and we need another strategy.

  • This mine is going to exacerbate the oversupply of coal in the export market, which has been a key driver of job losses. Further oversupply will drive further drops in the price of coal and this will lead to lay-offs and even mine closures, as it has in the last two years.

  • Despite applying the new economic guidelines, the assessment of the mine fails to include the economic cost of worsening air quality from coarse particle pollution and lost water from the Hunter River and Wollombi Brook.

  • It also fails to include the economic cost of the downstream greenhouse gas emissions from the coal mined at the site. The downstream emissions likely to be generated by this project are 259.3 million tonnes. Applying the per tonne carbon costs used in the economic assessment in Appendix 19, this would result in costs of a staggering $2.3-4.9 billion, dramatically reversing the proponent’s claim that this mine will have a net economic benefit.

The Hunter Valley can’t afford to lose any more of its critically endangered remnant woodland. It can’t afford any worsening air quality or any more draw down of its rivers and alluvial aquifers. It can’t afford to worsen the oversupply of coal that is costing jobs. It cannot afford this mine, and the project should not be approved.

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