The tiny village of Wollar faces oblivion and NSW’s climate change goals appear in doubt after multinational mining giant Peabody Energy lodged an application to explore for coal a stone’s throw from the town’s boundaries.
The application comes after the Perrottet Government left the community out of new systems it introduced to carefully consider the wisdom of releasing new areas of the state to exploitation for coal.
In November last year, the Perrottet Government opened the door for Peabody’s application by cutting short a proposed tender process, saying there was limited interest in exploring for coal in the area. Unlike other jurisdictions including Rylstone, Wollar residents were not granted the opportunity for community consultation over whether further coal exploration was appropriate under former Deputy Premier John Barilaro’s 2020 “Future of Coal” plan.
As Lock the Gate Alliance previously warned, ditching the tender process cleared the way for Peabody, which has approval to operate the nearby Wilpinjong coal mine until 2033, to continue expanding coal exploration in the area. Doing so would risk annihilation of the community, which has already been severely impacted by the Wilpinjong mine.
An advertisement placed in The Land Newspaper last month revealed the company has now applied to explore within 500 metres to the north and east of Wollar.
The advertisement appeared the day before a funeral was held for Col Faulkner, who was a resident of Wollar and staunch opponent of Peabody’s expansion plans.
Peabody, which now owns most of the properties in Wollar, closed the town’s only shop on December 31. It means some locals now need to complete a 150km round trip to Mudgee just to buy essentials.
The exploration application also comes as the company faces pressure from the Clean Energy Regulator for incorrectly reporting the carbon emissions produced at its NSW coal mines to the Federal Government.
Bev Smiles, who lives on the outskirts of Wollar, said allowing Peabody to expand would fatally undermine the Perrottet Government’s efforts to reduce carbon emissions in NSW.
“For the NSW Government to even be considering releasing new coal when it has a commitment to net zero carbon emissions is totally at cross purposes,” she said.
“An extension of the mine would also increase direct pollution experienced by landholders in the area like noise, dust, and the terrible odour from coal burning in reject piles.
“Wollar is adjacent to the Goulburn River National Park, yet the NSW Government refuses to acknowledge the cumulative impacts of Peabody’s mine on threatened biodiversity, groundwater, and cultural heritage.
“Peabody needs to step up as well - it needs to read the writing on the wall and move into renewable energy rather than continuing down the road of dirty thermal coal.”
Lock the Gate Alliance spokesperson Georgina Woods said the Perrottet Government needed to refuse the exploration application immediately.
“Wollar and the surrounding district have already suffered too much. The community has been repeatedly and comprehensively betrayed by the NSW Government,” she said.
“This is a question of rural resilience, justice and serious choices for the NSW Government. Wollar cannot withstand any more exploitation and damage for coal and neither can the NSW Government if it wants a snowball’s chance in hell of achieving its greenhouse emissions reduction goals. Deputy Premier Paul Toole must step in and tell Peabody that its coal mining and exploration cannot come any closer to Wollar.”