The Planning Assessment Commission review of the proposed Wilpinjong coal mine, out today, does not recommend the expansion of the mine and rejects Peabody’s plan to leave a large void 1.5 km from the village of Wollar.
But local residents have slammed the PAC's treatment of the social impacts of the project, which the NSW Planning Department acknowledges would send the village of Wollar to extinction.
“The PAC has failed to recognise the right of my community to exist,” said Bev Smiles, resident of Wollar and convenor of the Hunter Communities Network. “And they have ignored the impact that killing off the village of Wollar would have on the remaining isolated private properties in the district.”
“The PAC declined an invitation to meet with the Wollar community, instead limiting itself to closed-door meetings with Peabody, and tour of the mine site.”
“The rushed completion of the PAC review report demonstrates their failure to rigorously assess the key issues raised in submissions. The bulk of submissions objected to the project, yet it took the Commission only a few weeks to reject all those objections and deliver their report by Christmas, in accordance with Peabody's timetable,” said Ms Smiles.
The Commission's newly published review of the Western Hunter open cut coal project does not recommend the mine expansion be approved, but instead highlights inadequacies in the environmental assessments prepared by both the Planning Department and the mine's owner, bankrupt American coal company Peabody Energy. The Commission concludes that no recommendation can be made on the project until its impacts are fully and properly assessed, particularly for noise, social impacts on the village of Wollar Aboriginal heritage and the critically endangered Regent honeyeater.
The Commission found that Peabody's proposal to leave a third permanent final void 1.5km from the village of Wollar is not justified, and recommends “further consideration” be given to make Peabody fill in the proposed void.
Importantly, the Commission's review exposes the NSW Government's failure to strategically manage the expansion of the NSW coal industry and its impacts on communities and other industries, recommending “the development of a high level strategic vision for the NSW coalfields.”
“This is a very embarrassing report for the Coalition Government, which was elected on a promise to fix up our state's broken mining regulations, and give communities some protection and some certainty,” said Steve Phillips, Hunter regional coordinator for the Lock The Gate Alliance.
“More than two years after the Planning and Assessment Commission first identified the Government’s lack of policy on final voids left behind by coal mines, the Baird Government still doesn't have a coherent policy instead allowing mining companies to dictate their own rules. There are now 40-odd massive, toxic mine voids slated to scar NSW for eternity, because this government won't ask mining companies to clean up their own mess.”
“The failure of this government to develop a big-picture strategic plan showing where mining can occur, and importantly, where it cannot, has resulted in an ad hoc open slather approach to new coal projects that sacrifices agricultural industries, the environment, and local communities for the sake of an industry with no long-term future.
“Fundamentally, though, this mine will kill the rural village of Wollar, and that is too high a price to pay for a short-lived extension of mining at Wilpinjong. It must not be allowed to proceed,” said Mr Phillips.
The report of PAC Review into the Wilpinjong extension project is here: