Muswellbrook Council’s surprise decision to formally and strenuously oppose Glencore’s Mangoola coal mine expansion planned for the Wybong Valley demonstrates how utterly fed up the local community is with large, polluting coal mines.
Local landholders and Lock the Gate Alliance argue residents are being left at the mercy of multinational mining companies and uncertain coal markets, echoing Council’s concern that if mining continues to dominate the shire, it could become “a ghost town.”
The council formally objected to the expansion during a meeting with the Independent Planning Commission. A transcript of that meeting was published on the Independent Planning Commission’s website this morning, and the Commission is due to hold an assessment hearing this Wednesday and Thursday (March 3 and 4).
Barrister Craig Leggatt spoke on the council’s behalf, declaring “enough is enough” and detailing a litany of serious problems with the mine’s impacts on flora and fauna, water contamination, the social and economic future of the Shire, and Glencore’s “uncharacteristically poor” provision of information about the project.
“Muswellbrook Shire Council has a history of working collaboratively with coal mines in its local government area, and it’s done that to achieve community outcomes that are beneficial to the community; however, the time has been reached, in the opinion of the council, with the Continued Operations Project that enough is enough.”
The expansion project would only extend the mine’s approval for a little over a year, but would inflict double the number of blast per week, double of number of “final voids,” nearly a third again as much woodland clearing and nearly half again as much greenhouse gas emissions (an additional 100 million tonnes) as the original mine proposal.
About 350 hectares of native woodland would be cleared and critically endangered orchids removed. Some proposed biodiversity offsets are located in the Giant’s Creek area, which the State Government last year earmarked for release for coal exploration and, ultimately, further mining.
Wybong Valley locals Margot and Michael White said “enough was enough” when it came to the expansion of large coal mines in the farming valley.
Mrs White welcomed Muswellbrook Council’s decision to oppose the mine expansion.
“Muswellbrook Council residents are those who already live with all the negative impacts of mining and, although the council has been, until now, very supportive of mining, councillors have clearly realised that this project goes too far,” she said.
“This mine expansion imposes massive additional damage on our community, and does nothing to help us diversify to be prepared once the mine finally closes.
“My greatest concern, as a grandmother, is for the next generations. It’s just so important we leave something for them, clean water, intact farmland and better job opportunities. There are already so many mines in Muswellbrook that the council is saying even coal miners ‘vote with their feet’ and elect to live elsewhere. That’s not a way to build a future for our region.”
Mr White said rather than expanding Mangoola, now was an opportunity for Glencore to be an industry leader and demonstrate how a coal mine could be closed without sacking workers.
“Glencore is the largest coal operator in the Hunter Valley and our view is we don’t think anyone who wants to keep a job should lose their job," he said.
“Glencore has approval to continue mining for nine years without this extension, so it should be able, through natural attrition, rehabilitation work, and voluntary redundancies, to ensure people don’t unwillingly lose jobs from this.”
Lock the Gate Alliance NSW coordinator Georgina Woods said, “Glencore has an approval to continue mining at Mangoola for another nine years but it has recklessly over exploited its resources and mined so quickly that the coal will run out and they expect to close the mine five years early. That’s not the actions of a responsible company that cares about the Hunter community.”
“This company is asking the residents of Wybong to cop double the rate of blasting, double the number of voids, more woodland clearing, and more dust and air pollution because it has been greedy in how it has run the mine.
“The Independent Planning Commision can’t afford to ignore Muswellbrook Council’s strenuous objections to this coal mine extension.”