A newly released NSW clean air draft strategy repeats the same findings about coal mining and air pollution in the Hunter already canvased in a discussion paper five years ago without offering any concrete solutions to clear the air, Lock the Gate Alliance says.
Since the release of the 2016 discussion paper*, which identified pollution from open cut coal mines as contributing to poor air quality and poor health in the Upper Hunter, the NSW Government has approved a swathe of expansions of coal mining in the region.
Lock the Gate Alliance NSW spokesperson Georgina Woods said, “The Government’s own data clearly shows the Upper Hunter in particular is suffering from particulate pollution and that coal mining is the chief human created source of this pollution.
“Reducing impacts from coal mining is among the priorities highlighted in this strategy, but no specific new actions are proposed. We’re still holding our breath waiting for the NSW Government to actually introduce pointed regulation that will alleviate pollution.
“The role of coal mining in the Hunter’s air pollution problem was identified five years ago but instead of acting, the State Government has allowed multiple new coal mines to open and existing coal mines to expand in the Upper Hunter since then and has now produced a paper that simply recycles existing inadequate measures.
“The current mining assessment and compliance regime is failing the people of the Hunter region, where rates of respiratory and cardiovascular illness are higher than the state average and children are more likely to develop asthma here than elsewhere in NSW.
“The government's failure to introduce new measures with this strategy, after five years deliberating on it, is reprehensible given that there are large open cut mine expansion projects - such as Mt Pleasant - currently being considered that will significantly worsen air quality.
“We’re still waiting for the EPA and Minister Matt Kean to finish the stalled review of the load-based licencing scheme, which would sharpen the industry’s attention to reducing pollution by making them pay the cost of it. That’s the sort of action the region needs.”
*Lock the Gate's submission to the 2016 "Clean Air Plan for NSW" discussion paper is attached.