Shock at speedy coal mine approval Protests: Wollar residents stage a protest outside a NSW Planning Assessment Commission hearing considering expansion of Wilpinjong coal mine.
Arrest: Wollar Progress Association spokesperson Bev Smiles is arrested early in April after a protest outside Wilpinjong mine.
Haul: A train ready to carry coal from Wilpinjong coal mine between Denman and Mudgee to service Bayswater and Liddell power stations.
Purchase: The Barigan Valley which is largely owned by Peabody Energy to provide offsets for its Wilpinjong coal mine.
TweetFacebook Shock speedy approval of Wilpinjong coal mine expansion NSW Planning Assessment Commission takes one week to approve mine expansion+4NSW Planning Assessment Commission takes one week to approve mine expansionMORE GALLERIES
facebookSHAREtwitterTWEETemailwhatsappcommentCommentsTHE NSW Planning Assessment Commission has approved expansion of Wilpinjong coal mine until 2033 only one week after receiving 284 objections to the proposal.
The commission rejected Wollar residents’ submissions that the expansion would spell the end of their village and agreed with a Department of Planning assessment that the “decline of Wollar was inevitable even without mining”.
The decision on Wednesday was only a week after the end of public submissions, and two weeks after Wollar Progress Association spokesperson Bev Smiles and two others werearrested and charged after a protest outside the mine between Denman and Mudgee.
The commission approved a new open cut pit at the Peabody Energy mine, expansion of existing pits, extension of mine operations from 2026 to 2033, an increase in annual coal production to 13 million tonnes, and further realignment of Ulan-Wollar Road.
The commission found the project was in the public interest because it would provide “significant benefits to the locality, region and state”, and failing to approve the expansion would have led to a decrease in mine operations and impact on jobs from 2017.
Approval would mean 625 on-site jobs during peak production, the commission said.
“The commission finds that the project would, subject to the mitigation measures proposed by (Peabody) and conditions recommended by the department, have acceptable impacts and that proposed conditions of consent represent an appropriate reflection on contemporary and best practice management for an open cut coal mine,” the commission said.
Objections on the basis of water, air quality, noise, blasting, biodiversity, social and Aboriginal heritage impacts were adequately assessed and addressed by the department and Peabody, it said.
Wollar residents were shocked by the decision only a week after the end of the public submission period when 284 objections were received.
“The commission’s decision to approve this mine after the barest possible timeframe for consideration is frankly devastating. They have completely ignored the key issues raised on the negative social impacts,” Ms Smiles said.
“Not only have they signed the death warrant for Wollar and its surrounding community, but they have failed to give acquisition rights to affected property owners that rely on the village. They will strand us beside this mine that has ruined our lives and leave us with nothing. There is no social justice in this decision.”
Ms Smiles said the commission had failed to give acquisition rights to the remaining members of Wollar community who argued they had “stranded assets” because of the extent of Peabody’s property acquisitions in the area, and because people would not want to buy into an area so close to coal mines.
Lock the Gate Alliance Hunter regional coordinator Steve Phillips said, “We are reeling from the speed and callousness of this process and appealing to the State government to overhaul the planning process and give the public back some basic rights and protections.
“The Hunter region cannot cope with more damage, ruined villages, lost heritage and abused public trust. We will be ramping up our efforts to appeal to Planning Minister Anthony Roberts to restore balance in the Hunter and give the region a future.”