The Planning and Assessment Commission will hear today that its decision on the Drayton South mine is a test of New South Wales' priorities, as conflict over incompatible land and water uses in the Hunter puts the spotlight on a planning system that has failed to reasonably limit the extent and impacts of coal mining, according to the Lock the Gate Alliance.
The PAC is holding a public hearing today in Denman in the Hunter Valley as it prepares to make a final determination on the project.
"The Planning and Assessment Commission review recommended this mine be rejected due to its unacceptable environmental, social, and economic impacts, including the likely departure of the two biggest thoroughbred studs in the Hunter," said Steve Phillips, Hunter regional coordinator for the Lock The Gate Alliance, who will present to the PAC hearing today.
The Department of Planning's subsequent recommendation report insisted that the mine should proceed, in spite of this recommendation and the threatened loss of one of the region's oldest and most successful rural industries, prompting renewed calls for Planning Minister Prue Goward to reform her Department.
"The Department of Planning has become intimate with mining companies and is generally very eager to meet the coal companies' demands: fair process and the public interest are sacrificed in a Departmental culture that assumes mines must be approved regardless of the impact on land, water and other industries.
"The PAC is supposed to be the independent arbiter, but will the Commissioners have the courage to make the right call when it matters the most, despite pressure from mining company and the planning department?"
In its submission to the PAC today, the Alliance will focus on the impacts of the proposed mine on rivers, creeks, and aquifers. Lock The Gate recently commissioned a report into the impacts of the Hunter's coal mines on quality and availability of water.
"We found that lasting damage is being done to the region's water resources. This damage will continue for hundreds of years into the future, long after overseas mining companies like Anglo have departed.
"Anglo's proposed mine pit is just 40m from Saddlers Creek, just shy of its junction with the Hunter River. The company proposes to leave a saline lake in the landscape, over 170 metres deep, sucking in groundwater for the next 700 years."
"The decision over this mine is a test of our priorities in New South Wales. We can't allow coal mining companies to continue sacrificing the Hunter's water resources for their short term gain, when sustainable rural industries rely on it." said Phillips.
The PAC hearing begins at the Denman Memorial Hall, 30 Ogilvie Street, at 9:30am, and will likely run all day.