The NSW Planning Assessment Commission give the green light for a major new Chinese owned coal mine on the Liverpool Plains.
The Liverpool Plains near Gunnedah are often described as the food-bowl of Australia, with some of the nation’s most fertile agricultural land.
The Shenhua Watermark Coal project includes developing a new open cut coal mine that will extract up to 10-million tonnes of coal a year for 30 years.
For more than eight years farmers in the region have been campaigning to stop the project, expressing concern about the impact on the underground water system and soils.
Shenhua paid the former NSW Labor Government $300 million for the exploration licence.
The project has been through the Department of Planning and reviewed by the Planning Assessment Commission.
The PAC’s final determination give the green light for the project subject to comprehensive conditions and management requirements.
It’s outlined six key points including protecting the Black Soil Plains.
The PAC says it believes the mine will be in the hills above the black soil plains and will not directly disturb those fertile soils.
It says it will generate dust, noise and blasting impacts on land around the mine, but it says those impacts can be managed.
The PAC has found the mine will have ‘modest impacts on groundwater’ in the hard rock aquifers, rather than the Upper Naomi alluvial aquifers relied on by the agricultural sector.
It’s found groundwater draw downs are well within the levels permitted by the NSW Aquifer Interference Policy.
Traditional owners have expressed deep concern about the project’s impact on three ‘grinding groove’ sites and Shenhua’s plans to have them relocated, but the PAC believes the sacred objects can be relocated and preserved.
A known Koala habitat, the PAC has also found that the mining company’s Koala Plan of Management will ensure that koalas are given the best chance of survival both in any translocation programs.
The PAC says it is satisfied that the proposal will generate significant employment, royalties and other economic benefits to the community.
The Caroona Coal Action Group has been involved in a campaign against the mine for the last eight years, it’s CEO Tim Duddy is angry.
“As this progressively moves, the water resources will be destroyed the agricultural region will be die, the towns will be harmed and in the short term there will be a boom, then there will be a huge bust leaving a legacy where there is nothing forever. And basically the PAC has signed the warrant for that to happen today.”
An emotional Mr Duddy says the fight will continue.
“This is not the end of it, but this is a very, very black day for our region.”
“This whole process, the whole thing that is being contemplated here, is based on things that have been shown that in other places they do not work. We are being left with the same crap, that the miners are being allowed to get away with time and time again things that there isn’t another industry alive which would be able to get away with it.”
“People are so tied to this place and people are so angry about these processes that we have participated in for the last eight years in good faith, [believing} that our assets would be protected, and clearly with what the Planning and Assessment has signed today, they are not.”
He says he is very concerned about the impact the decision may have on the mental health of the community who’ve fought for almost a decade.
“I can’t imagine what this will do to the community, and I expect that something awful will happen as a result of this. Someone will lose it because of this and something awful will happen.”
Sheuhua has welcomed the decision. The Project Manager, Paul Jackson says the result is the final step in a long journey…
Read more by Kelly Fuller, ABC New England North West 29 January 2015