The NSW Department of Planning has today released its assessment report recommending approval of a controversial new open cut coal mine in the Hunter catchment’s historic Bylong Valley in a move Lock the Gate Alliance has described as "unfathomable."
Lock the Gate Alliance spokesperson Georgina Woods said:
“The Department’s support for the mine comes despite acknowledging serious impacts on a productive alluvial aquifer, the loss of numerous heritage sites, and risks to the social cohesion of the stunning agricultural valley.
“To recommend approval of this open cut coal mine in a productive and picturesque valley that has never before been subject to mining is frankly unfathomable.
“It will involve digging up graves and churches, cutting open strategic agricultural land, undermining culturally cherished Aboriginal ochre quarries, drawing down an alluvial aquifer and emptying a scenic and productive agricultural valley of inhabitants.
“The NSW Department of Planning just seems to have one answer when it comes to coal mines. No matter how much damage they will do, the Department says the mine should proceed.
“They said it with the Shenhua mine on the Liverpool Plains, they said it with the Drayton South mine, and here they are, with the Bylong project, pushing again for coal mining at any cost.”
Bylong landholder Graeme Tanner said, “This coal project has already devastated my community. They’ve bought up almost the whole Valley and torn the social fabric apart.
“How will those of us that are left behind keep our farms going when they’re sucking the aquifer dry and destroying the landscape?”
The mine project will be reviewed by the Planning and Assessment Commission, which disagreed with the Department of Planning’s recommended approval of the Drayton South project.
Former Planning Minister Rob Stokes directed the Commission review to hold a public hearing, thereby removing the right of any member of the community to challenge the merits of a future approval of the mine in court.
Mr Tanner said, “We’ve told the government we won’t participate in their public hearing. We know a stitch up when we see one. But we’ll be telling the Commission that this place, like Drayton South, is worth more intact than it is as a dirty great hole in the ground.”
The Department of Planning Assessment Report is available here.