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ICAC recommendations must be adopted

No-go areas for mining needed at exploration stage

The Lock The Gate Alliance has called on the O'Farrell Government to accept the recommendations of today's Independent Commission Against Corruption report, and create no-go areas for mining at the exploration stage.

The ICAC report was prepared in response to corrupt behaviour by politicians and coal companies surrounding the allocation of coal mine Exploration Licences (EL) at Mount Penny, Doyles Creek, Yarrawa, and Glendon Brook, all in the Hunter Valley. It makes 26 recommendations for reform of the system of EL allocation in NSW, to prevent corruption from occurring again.

The recommendations include:

  • An assessment panel and working groups are formed to make recommendations to the NSW Government about potential exploration areas (recommendation 7).
  • That a triple bottom line assessment of the social, environmental, and economic impacts of allocation an EL is used (recommendation 8).

Lock The Gate have urged the Government to use this “triple bottom line” approach to identify 'no-go' areas for mining at the exploration stage. The Alliance has also called for this approach to apply to any renewals of existing EL's.

“The system of handing out coal exploration licences in NSW is broken, and it needs to be fixed,” said Steve Phillips, Hunter regional coordinator for Lock The Gate.

“Mining companies are given exploration rights over areas that should never be mined, such as productive agricultural land, precious water resources, irreplaceable biodiversity hotspots, and rural communities. Both the mining companies and the Government assume that these exploration licences will lead to mining projects.”

“The Government needs to provide certainty to all stakeholders, including the mining industry, about which areas can and cannot be mined. This needs to be done at the earliest opportunity – before an EL is granted. We call on Barry O'Farrell to adopt the ICAC recommendations, and ensure that the social, environmental, and economic impacts of mining are assessed before exploration is allowed to occur.”

“This needs to happen in consultation with communities and with experts in agriculture, biodiversity, and health. Protection of land, water, and public health must be the first priority.”

“To address the problems of existing exploration licences in inappropriate areas, no-go zones should also be incorporated into EL renewals.”

Lock The Gate also underscored the importance of Recommendation 26 in today's ICAC report, which urges the NSW Government to adopt the recommendations from a 2010 ICAC report into corruption risks associated with lobbying. The recommendations of that report have not yet been implemented.

“When industry lobbyists have unparalleled access to and influence over decision-makers, the public interest is at risk. Communities in NSW are increasingly losing trust in the O'Farrell Government, which is continuously placing mining interests ahead of the community interest. Premier O'Farrell has a lot of work to do to restore this trust. He can start by accepting all of today's ICAC recommendations,” concluded Phillips.

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