Mine plan puts Bulga back in firing lineOn 01/31/2019 by admin
NSW government planners have recommended approval of a controversial Hunter Valley mine expansion, setting the scene for renewed confrontation between miners and residents of a village affected by the plan.
The Warkworth coal mine expansion – known as the Warkworth Continuation Project – has been recommended for approval by the Department of Planning and Environment after two court decisions rejecting earlier versions of the project.
Residents of the Hunter Valley village of Bulga won a much-publicised fight against the mine’s owner, Rio Tinto, in 2013 when the Land and Environment Court overturned approval.
An appeal by mine owner Rio Tinto was lost in April 2014.
Bulga residents are concerned about noise, dust and visual impacts of the mine encroaching on their town.
John Krey, president of the Bulga Milbrodale Progress Association, said the new project was no different to the one already rejected by the court.
“This is a staggering outcome,” Mr Krey said.
“The department has utterly betrayed Bulga.”
NSW Planning Minister Pru Goward has sent the revised project for assessment by the independent Planning Assessment Commission, with a departmental recommendation for approval.
Rio Tinto Coal Australia managing director Chris Salisbury said the mine expansion should now be approved quickly by the PAC.
The Warkworth mine will reach the limits of its current approval by 2015 and needs to expand to maintain its workforce of 1300 people.
The Department of Planning and Environment agreed in its initial assessment that the expansion would intensify noise, dust, blasting and visual impacts on Bulga, which has about 360 residents.
During the public exhibition period, 1638 submissions supported the mine plan while 281 objected.
The expanded mine will use 450 million litres of water a year and require the clearing of 611 hectares of native vegetation, most of that endangered.
Rio Tinto proposes to offset the land impact by conserving 2800 ha elsewhere.
The mine is expected to generated $567 million in royalties for the NSW government.
The PAC will hold public hearings on the project at Singleton Heights on December 18.