Mining company KEPCO’s attempt to keep community consultation reports for its coal exploration titles in the Bylong Valley hidden demonstrates the company’s lack of social licence in the district, according to Lock the Gate Alliance.
The company recently objected to releasing the documents under freedom of information laws, following an application by LTGA.
LTGA NSW spokesperson Georgina Woods said it was clear Korean Government owned KEPCO was afraid of what the documents would reveal.
“The idea that community consultation reports should be kept from the public is absurd,” she said.
“KEPCO are not operating in an open and transparent manner and have failed to take the concerns of local residents and the public seriously.
“The fact that mining community consultation reports are not routinely made publicly available in the first instance is troubling, but for the company to object to the public obtaining them through the GIPA Act suggests it is ashamed.
“Clearly, KEPCO has no social licence to operate a coal mine in the productive and beautiful Bylong Valley.”
The Department of Planning has determined the documents should be released to Lock the Gate despite KEPCO’s objection, but the documents cannot be released until the company’s legal rights of appeal against that decision have been exhausted.
Bylong farmer Phill Kennedy said the objection by KEPCO was troubling given concerns locals had raised with the company about the planned mine’s impact on underground water.
“We keep asking KEPCO if it is so confident it won't deplete the aquifer our farm relies on, why won't they put that in writing and guarantee our water supply? This is the kind of feedback they're getting from locals. We’ll be very interested to see what these secret consultation reports say," he said.
“KEPCO won’t guarantee reliability and quality water for stock, and the company certainly hasn’t offered any irrigation guarantees.”
The latest development in the long-running KEPCO saga comes after it was revealed the company’s Gateway Certificate, which measures a project’s impact on strategic agricultural land, was found to have expired.
Ms Woods renewed LTGA’s call for the Independent Planning Commission and the NSW Government to use this opportunity to kick KEPCO out of the Bylong Valley and preserve the unique farming and ecologically significant land and underground water.
“The expiry of this crucial certificate is a lifeline for the Bylong Valley and an opportunity for the NSW Government to intervene against this mine that will destroy hundreds of hectares of prime agricultural land,” she said.
“The lapsing of this certificate puts the spotlight back on the terrible impacts of the Bylong coal mine on agricultural land and water resources, including the Bylong River.
“If the mine is allowed to proceed, it will not only impinge on the crucible of Natural Sequence Farming at Tarwyn Park, but will destroy an area recognised as a critical industry cluster for the equine industry.”