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BHP’s Mt Arthur exit increases toxic rehabilitation risk

Lock the Gate Alliance has sounded the alarm about the Hunter Valley’s rudderless future after multinational mining behemoth BHP confirmed it would cut and run from the Mount Arthur thermal coal mine.

Lock the Gate Alliance NSW coordinator Georgina Woods said BHP had a responsibility to rehabilitate the land and close the mine in an orderly manner. 

“The world is moving away from thermal coal, and large companies like BHP, which is among the top 100 greenhouse emitting companies of all time, should rehabilitate the land they have carved up for mining and diversify coal mining communities,” she said.

“There is a great risk that less experienced mining companies will move in on these assets and fail to adequately rehabilitate the land.

“Repeat offender and environmental vandal Adani is one of the companies that has been named as showing interest in Mt Arthur. Selling Mt Arthur might make BHP’s greenhouse rap-sheet look better, but the pollution will still be created and leave the Hunter with an even more uncertain future. 

“BHP has made a lot of money out of Mount Arthur. Now that it has started losing money it wants to turn tail. The Hunter region deserves some of this year’s $9 billion profit for environmental repair and economic diversification. 

“We know that forcing mining companies to rehabilitate mining land can create many jobs and boost economic activity - this is so important now given the impact Covid-19 has had on business. It’s an employment bridge while other new industries get going and it’s a source of pride to see the land restored. 

“The community of Muswellbrook could reap the rewards of rehabilitation, yet BHP seems eager to cut and run and flog this asset off to the highest bidder - whoever they may be.

“Rehabilitation of Mt Arthur would also address serious environmental risks - as it stands the mine has many open pit voids that threaten the Hunter’s waterways and leave the land unusable. These pits act as groundwater sinks, reducing river flow and increasing salinity for generations into the future.

“BHP's legacy in the Hunter will be a huge toxic pit lake, hundreds of metres deep and several kilometres long, that will continue to pollute the Hunter River for the next 250 years.

“This is the biggest coal mine in Australia and one of the richest mining companies on the planet. Surely it is not too much for the public to ask BHP to fill in the holes and invest in a just transition, rather than cutting and running.”

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