The independent planning panel’s recommendation to approve Rio Tinto’s Mount Thorley Warkworth mine expansion proposal is a blow for the Bulga community, who have fought the proposal for five years and twice won in court, says Mr John Krey, President of the Bulga Milbrodale Progress Association.
"This decision is tribute to the iron grip the mining industry still has over the NSW government, even though the ruinous nature of Rio Tinto’s project has been spelt out over and over again," Mr Krey said.
"Two judges have ruled that the project has unacceptable impacts on our community, yet the Coalition government, working in lockstep with greedy mining giant Rio Tinto, has managed to dodge new rules and push it through regardless," Mr Krey said.
"Approving this bankrupt proposal guarantees the destruction of our community, Aboriginal culture, flourishing wine and tourism industry,world unique Warkworth Sands Woodlands and biodiversity.
"This is a joke, but we’re not laughing. Thousands of people have pledged to stand with us to continue our struggle to save Bulga.
"We will now consider the options available to us, using every peaceful means available. This battle to save our township of Bulga is not over yet.
"For the past five years Rio Tinto and the Coalition have fought us at every turn, holding secret meetings, appealing our court wins, amending planning laws, reneging on an agreement to protect Saddle Ridge and stripping away appeal rights.
"The NSW Planning Minister Rob Stokes took a positive, first step in again relegating consideration of the economic benefits of a mine to the same status as its social and environmental impacts, but his reforms were inadequate to secure justice.
"We need much stronger government action to protect communities like ours, and the environment, from the destructive impacts of coal mining.
"In the Hunter Valley communities such as Camberwell and Wollar face mine expansions, while the beautiful Bylong Valley is a risk of being dug up for a new, open cut coal mine."
Georgina Woods, NSW Coordinator for Lock the Gate Alliance said, "Despite securing approval for multiple large scale expansion projects, and increasing production levels, and coal the industry has shed 4,000 jobs in the last two years. Approving this project does not solve that problem: the Hunter region is slipping into a crisis that must be urgently addressed.
"The NSW Government has failed to create balanced and common sense policy that protects villages, the wine-industry and endangered bushland from coal mining. This short-sighted mining-at-any-cost policy is costing us a thriving, diverse and sustainable economic future for the region.”
High quality images available for download and publication: Bulga and the current mine, residents at the final Planning and Assessment hearing on 30 June 2015 in Singleton and the Premier and Rob Stokes’ visit to Bulga on 28 April 2015.