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Burdening the future: IPC approves United Wambo despite air pollution and greenhouse gases

Lock the Gate Alliance is disappointed the Independent Planning Commission has granted approval to a new open cut coal mine in the Hunter Valley despite air pollution in the Singleton area already breaching national standards.

The IPC today granted approval to the contentious United Wambo coal mine expansion project, thereby worsening air quality in the Hunter and adding to global greenhouse emissions. 

“This mine will increase harmful levels of particle pollution in the Hunter, which already regularly exceeds national air pollution guidelines,” said Lock the Gate Alliance spokesperson Georgina Woods.

“This mine is right in the central part of the Valley that is most badly affected by air pollution. Singleton residents will suffer as a result of this expansion." 

With today’s decision, the IPC has for the first time imposed a condition that requires the mine owners - Glencore and Peabody Energy - to ensure the coal is only being exported to countries that are party to the Paris Climate Agreement, or are taking action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 

Ms Woods said this was limited in its effectiveness, given the mine would still lead to nearly 260 million tonnes of additional greenhouse pollution in the atmosphere, which would have a direct impact on global warming.

“With the approval of United Wambo, the Planning Commission is burdening the future. It will add to the air pollution burden in the Hunter region and contribute hundreds of millions of tonnes of additional greenhouse pollution to the atmosphere,” she said.

Ms Woods said the Scope 3 condition could be varied by the Secretary of the Department of Planning, who wrote to the Commission last week opposing the measure. 

“The Commission came under a huge amount of pressure from the Department of Planning, the Deputy Premier, and the mining industry not to address this important issue in its decision over this coal mine," she said.

“Frankly, we don’t have confidence in the Department of Planning’s priorities when it comes to minimising greenhouse gas emissions from exported Hunter coal,” Ms Woods said.

“The Department has shown itself incapable of maturely dealing with this issue and piled pressure on the Commission to stop it from creating this modest requirement to address it.”

Ms Woods said the approval of United Wambo turned the spotlight back on the imminent decision on the proposed Bylong coal mine and called for the IPC to find the courage to knock it back because the impacts were so severe.  

“Unlike United Wambo, the Bylong mine proposal is a greenfield mine - the first ever mine proposed in the magnificent Bylong Valley,” she said.

“The community needs to see the Commission step up and reject the mines that will do the most damage to agricultural soils and water, like Bylong."

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