Rio Tinto's new Warkworth mine application shows the system is broken

Published: March 20, 2014

News that Rio Tinto will resubmit its application for a major expansion of the Warkworth open cut coal mine in the Hunter Valley shows that the NSW mining assessment system is broken and failing communities, according to the Bulga Milbrodale Progress Association and the Lock The Gate Alliance.

The Warkworth Extension Project was rejected by the NSW Land and Environment Court in April last year, due to the impacts it stood to have on the village of Bulga, and on the Warkworth Sands Woodland, a critically endangered ecosystem that Rio Tinto once promised to protect, but now wants to bulldoze.

“The Court rejected the Warkworth mine extension for very good reasons,” said John Krey, spokesperson for the Bulga Milbrodale Progress Association, which lodged the court appeal. “The judge found that the value of the mine expansion was too low to justify the devastating impacts it would have on our community, and on the environment.”

“Rio Tinto are showing a cavalier contempt for due process and the rule of law, by resubmitting the exact mining application that has already been rejected. If the NSW Government has any commitment to fair process, it will not accept this new mining application,” said Mr Krey.

Any approval of the renewed application for the mine project will not be able to be challenged in court, unlike the former approval.

“The mining approvals system in NSW is broken, and the Warkworth case exemplifies everything that is wrong with it,” said Steve Phillips, Hunter regional coordinator for the Lock The Gate Alliance. “

“The people of Bulga have fought for years to save their town from Rio's proposed mine expansion. They even proved in court that the mine was a bad idea. Now they see their government siding with one of the biggest mining companies in the world to bulldoze through fair procedure and force a coal mine on Bulga that everyone knows will spell the end of the village.”

“How can communities have any faith in a system that is apparently incapable of stopping even the most egregious of mining proposals?”

After the Land and Environment Court judgement in April last year, Rio Tinto and the NSW Government appealed to the Supreme Court to reinstate the approval for the mine expansion. The Supreme Court judgement has yet to be delivered. Rio Tinto, evidently, do not expect to win that case.

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