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Revealed: Public kept in the dark over Government plan to sign off 45,000ha coal industry expansion

The Lock the Gate Alliance has called for full disclosure of coal industry plans revealed today for 16 enormous mining expansion areas in the Upper Hunter.

The Sydney Morning Herald has this morning revealed some details behind the Strategic Assessment being prepared for coal mining in the Upper Hunter, a process that has been stitched up behind closed doors between the NSW Government and 11 coal companies, plus the NSW Minerals Council.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the Government’s own analysis shows that these expansion plans could push some wildlife species and woodland communities to extinction in the Hunter.

Lock the Gate Alliance NSW Coordinator, Georgina Woods said, "We’ve suspected for some time that an agreement was being stitched-up behind closed doors with the coal industry to sign-off on extensive clearing of remnant woodland in the Hunter Valley to accommodate vast new areas of mining.

"There needs to be full public release of all information immediately and assurances that this is not a done deal. All information about possible wildlife extinctions to be caused by this secret plan needs to be revealed.

"It seems the Office of Environment and Heritage has been giving coal companies privileged access to biodiversity information being kept from the public, and preparing to sign-off on potential wildlife regional extinctions to accommodate the coal industry.

"Apparently the coal industry was going to be given the final draft of this plot to wipe out Hunter woodland before the public saw any of it, and even before Cabinet was given a glance.

"Public faith in the Government when it comes to basic limits on coal mining is at rock bottom. There has been scandal after scandal  since ICAC first exposed corruption in the coal allocation process, but this news today suggests the NSW Government is still delivering special deals for the mining industry.

"Communities have seen biodiversity plans and offsets fail badly at Maules Creek, Warkworth and elsewhere, and the system is simply not working to protect the environment. We've got to restore the balance. 

"Even though these leaked documents only refer to the biodiversity impacts of this secret plan, there is no doubt the impacts on water resources and human health will be equally dire. This is an enormous blow to Hunter communities already suffering extreme inequality caused by an out-of-control coal industry.

"The Premier and Environment Minister Rob Stokes must act to reassure the public that these mines will be rejected if they are going to contribute to local or regional wildlife extinctions, and that they will chart a new course that puts communities first and reforms mining laws if they are returned to Government after the State election.”

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