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Hunter residents to raise voices over worsening air quality outside IPC meeting

A respected Upper Hunter Valley doctor and residents worried about the mining industry’s impact on local air quality will don dust masks as they protest against the expansion of the Rix’s Creek coal mine this Monday (July 29).

The protest, where Dr Bob Vickers will speak, will be held outside the Independent Planning Commission’s Rix’s Creek public meeting in Singleton.

The mine’s owner, Bloomfield Group, wants to expand the project by 1.5km so it can continue mining until 2038 at a time when air quality in the Hunter is becoming increasingly worse due to the presence of coal mining.

Recently, the NSW Government released its Annual Air Quality Statement 2018, which found levels of sulphur dioxide in the Hunter Valley and Central Coast exceeded World Health Organization (WHO) standards 336 times over the past four years. 

In 2018, the Hunter Valley also recorded its worst air quality due to increasing particle matter from the mines and the drought. 

Three alerts showing PM10 levels exceeded national air quality standards were also issued in Singleton alone this Monday morning.

Dr Vickers said people were already suffering from illnesses related to air pollution throughout the Hunter Valley.

“We have plenty of data showing that air pollution in the Hunter is negatively affecting our health,” he said.

“I’m protesting because an expansion of the Rix’s Creek coal mine, and any others for that matter in the Hunter, is incompatible with improving the region’s air quality. 

“The Hunter Valley needs leadership on this issue, but unfortunately we are not seeing any from our elected representatives at the moment.”

Singleton resident Aunty Patricia Hansson said, “The air has been getting worse and worse and it’s making people sick. We need someone to stand up for us.”

Rix’s Creek was also one of the Hunter Valley mines recently issued enforcement notices during a NSW Governmentenforcement blitz, with the mine shirking its rehabilitation responsibilities. 

Lock the Gate Hunter spokesperson David Burgess said it was unbelievable the NSW Government was continuing with business as usual in coal mine approvals at a time when companies were being penalised for violating their conditions and air quality was worsening. 

“Families in Singleton Shire are suffering the effects of polluted air and doctors are being ignored,” he said.

“We are protesting to say enough is enough - residents’ health must not be sacrificed for mining giants and action is needed now to enforce strict air pollution standards.”

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