Following today’s news that the Planning and Assessment Commission has described the expansion of the Warkworth mine in the Hunter Valley as "capable of being approved," despite two court decisions rejecting an almost identical application, local community groups which have fought the project over five years have issued “The Bulga Declaration,” promising to use all peaceful means to prevent the mine extension going ahead in future.
The Bulga Declaration, set out in full below, is signed by a broad cross section of groups affected by the mine including representatives of Bulga residents, the local Aboriginal community, local winemakers, tourism operators and environment groups. These groups are today inviting members of the public to sign onto the declaration, which can be found at www.lockthegate.org.au/the_bulga_declaration.
The Planning and Assessment Commission report admits that changes in State Government policy since 2013 which have favoured the coal mining industry have been central to its conclusion that the mining project is "capable of being approved" now.
John Krey, spokesperson for the Bulga Milbrodale Progress Association said, “Giving the green light to this project today is confirmation that the legal and regulatory system that governs mining is broken and that NSW residents cannot count on it to serve the public interest or protect our precious land, water and heritage.
“With every other avenue to protect our homes and peaceful valley from this massive open cut coal mine exhausted, we are left with no choice but to draw a line in the sand.
“We have fought this project in court, and won twice, but despite this the NSW government changed the rules to push it through, quashed our rights to appeal in court, and worked behind closed doors with mining giant Rio Tinto to ensure its proceeds.
“Our community never planned to take peaceful direct action, but we never expected the NSW government to work with Rio Tinto to pervert a just outcome either.”
Kevin Taggart, Wonnarua traditional custodian, said, “We know that Rio Tinto and the NSW government have no hesitation in approving a mine expansion that will destroy our country and our culture.
“We will continue to oppose this project until it is dead in the water. Rio Tinto should be stopped from destroying our precious land and decimating our traditional culture, our homes and our sacred sites,” Mr Taggart said.
Ian Napier, Hunter Valley Wine Industry Tourism Association spokesperson said, “Why sacrifice our fertile wine and local tourism industries for the profits of a multi-national mining company which is blind to the resulting impacts on our beautiful valley?.”
Steve Phillips, Hunter Valley coordinator for the Lock The Gate Alliance said, “The Baird Government has turned its back on an iconic Hunter Valley community and sided with one of the biggest mining companies in the world. Instead of battling for Bulga, the government is battling for Rio Tinto, working hand in glove with the company to force this mine on an unwilling community. The PAC report makes clear that it is State Government policy changes in the last two years that have made this project approvable. When a Government changes the rules to suit a multi-national mining company and ruin a community, then comunities have little choice but to issue a declaration of this kind."