New coal mine approvals stir controversies in NSW

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Image credit: Flickr User: Christopher Muller

The New South Wales Planning Assessment Commission has approved three new coal mines in the state just weeks ahead of the upcoming elections, Green Left Weekly has reported.

Image credit: Flickr User: Christopher Muller
Image credit: Flickr User: Christopher Muller

The approvals refer to the Watermark Coal Project near Gunnedah on the Liverpool Plains, the Moolarben coal mine north-east of Mudgee and Rio Tinto’s Bengalla mine near Muswellbrook in the Hunter Valley.

In accordance with the commission’s approval, Rio’s Bengalla mine will be extended to more than double its current coal output to about 15 million metric tonnes (Mt) a year, whereas the development of the Watermark Coal Project on the Liverpool Plains would allow for the extraction of 10 Mt of coal per year for 30 years.

Steve O’Brien, the Socialist Alliance candidate for the lower house seat of Newcastle in the state election, described the plans as “absolute lunacy” and called for urged transition to renewables.

“There should be no new coalmines. Full stop. No new coalmines. That’s it. We need to start the transition to renewables now. What we really should be doing is looking towards a transition. Regions such as the Hunter Valley need to be getting out of coal mines and establishing more sustainable futures,” he said.

Susan Price, Socialist Alliance candidate for Summer Hill, said the development of the new Watermark Coal Project on the Liverpool Plains threatened to impact the production of food in the richest farming regions in NSW.

“The Liverpool Plains is NSW’s food bowl. Some of the richest farming land in the state is now being put directly under threat by these proposals. It will impact on farming communities and on our food production,” said Ms Price.

The commission’s third approval was conditional and referred to the extension to Yancoal’s Moolarben mine near Mudgee, which would allow extraction of 16 Mt of coal per year for 24 years.