Lock the Gate Alliance has renewed its call for the destructive Bylong coal mine to be refused after a transcript from a high level departmental meeting revealed there are no examples of successful rehabilitation after mining and no protection for the state’s most fertile soils.
At the recent meeting, held between the Independent Planning Commission (IPC), Department of Planning, and Department of Primary Industries, government representatives admitted there were no examples of mapped Biophysical Strategic Agricultural Land (BSAL) having been rehabilitated after mining in NSW.
The meeting concerned the planned controversial Bylong coal mine, which if approved would destroy 400 hectares of the state’s best farmland in a valley which has so far managed to escape the worst impacts of the drought ravaging much of the rest of the state, and continues to supply feed for those farms suffering further west.
Lock the Gate Alliance NSW spokesperson Georgina Woods said the transcript of the meeting, uploaded by the IPC, also exposed the NSW Government’s failure to monitor and protect BSAL, which represents the best 3.5% of agricultural soils in the state.
She said the transcript shockingly revealed a cavalier disregard from the Department of Planning to the destruction of 7-13% of the strategic farmland in the Bylong Valley destroyed for the Bylong coal mine.
“Disturbingly, the Agriculture Division of the Department of Primary Industries admitted at the meeting that there are no examples in NSW of land being restored to the standard of “biophysical strategic agricultural land” after mining, and there was no monitoring of these lands by the Department,” Ms Woods said.
“Nevertheless, the IPC was told by the departmental staff that their concerns about the Bylong coal project had been addressed.”
Ms Woods said, “We are flabbergasted there is no one in the NSW Government willing to say that losing 13% of the strategic farmland of the Bylong Valley to a coal mine is unacceptable.
“The IPC has asked DPI Agriculture what scale of loss of strategic agricultural land would be acceptable, and the Department does not have an answer.”
The transcript reveals that the “acceptability” of open cut coal mining on prime agricultural land in the NSW Government’s policy framework hinges on promises to rehabilitate the land, but the Agriculture Department admits in the meeting that there are no examples of this being done in NSW. Instead, non-specific reference is made to rehabilitation in the United States.
Ms Woods said, “How can the Independent Planning Commission be satisfied about this issue given there is no framework to protect strategic farmland from mining, no monitoring of it, and no successful examples of it being restored after being pulled apart by mining?
“The mining’s industry’s rehabilitation reputation is patchy at best and in many places is simply abysmal.
“We cannot rely on vague promises, wishful thinking or experimental practices for the future of agricultural production. We must protect the precious fertile soils that grow our food and fibre, particularly at this time of unprecedented drought.”
The meeting transcript is available here: https://www.ipcn.nsw.gov.au/resources/pac/media/files/pac/general/transcripts/2019/bylong-coal-project-20190806_dpie.pdf?la=en&hash=B90097E45E2E93E443669EC54BAC6168