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Rio Tinto drags Bulga community into the Supreme Court

The Lock The Gate Alliance has slammed mining giant Rio Tinto, after it's Hunter Valley subsidiary Coal and Allied appealed to the Supreme Court to allow the Warkworth Extension coal mine project to go ahead. The  project was rejected by the NSW Land and Environment Court last week after the Bulga Milbrodale Progress Association challenged the NSW Government's approval of the mine.

Lock The Gate's regional coordinator for the Hunter, Steve Phillips, said that Rio Tinto was using “bully-boy tactics against the Bulga community”, and rejected misleading statements made about the Warkworth Extension in a Coal and Allied media release announcing the Supreme Court appeal. 

“Rio Tinto are clearly seeking to downplay the scale of the Warkworth Extension project”, Phillips said. “This project is not merely a 'continuation of operations' of the Warkworth mine. The proposal is for an eighteen million tonne per annum, 1200 hectare open cut coal mine in an area currently occupied by farmland and a critically endangered woodland ecosystem. The mine would encroach on the village of Bulga, with much of the town within the mine's compulsory acquisition zone.

“Rio are rejecting the judgement of the Court, and hiding behind the State and Federal approval processes for the mine. But the public have lost faith in these approval processes, which are heavily biased towards mining approvals. As the Independent Commission Against Corruption inquiries Jasper and Acacia are showing, government approval processes for coal mining can and do fail to put the public interest first.

“Rio's desperate suggestion that the Warkworth Extension should go ahead because the coal industry is 'struggling' will be coolly received by the Bulga community. The unsustainable boom-bust cycle of the mining industry is precisely why the Hunter needs to become less dependent on coal. Our region has already lost too many small communities to mining, let's not sacrifice Bulga too.

“Rio highlight the downsteam economic benefits of mining, but neglect to discuss the serious impacts that mining has on other sectors of the economy. Major industries like dairy, viticulture, and thoroughbred breeding are being pushed out of the Hunter by mining. The high Australian dollar caused by the mining boom is pushing many other industries to crisis point.”

“Rio are resorting to inflated employment projections to justify the project, implying that Judge Preston did not consider the jobs implications of his decision. In fact, the Judge did consider the employment impacts of the project, and he found that Rio's jobs projections are exaggerated. Rio Tinto's job figures cannot be trusted.

“The Land and Environment Court judgement should have been the end of the story for the people of Bulga, who have fought for years to protect their community from mining. But Rio Tinto have refused to accept the umpire's decision, and will now drag local residents into battle in the Supreme Court. We call on Rio to accept that public health is more important than coal mining, and that the community of Bulga has a right to exist. It's time to drop the proposed Warkworth mine extension,” concluded Phillips.

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