The NSW Planning Assessment Commission has recommended that the Drayton South Coal Mine proposal from Anglo American should not proceed, leaving 500 workers out of a job.
Anglo American Coal CEO Seamus French said the devastating decision means Drayton mine, after more than 30 years of successful operation providing millions in wages, taxes, state royalties and community support, will wind down in 2016.
“This is the worst possible outcome for our workers, for the Hunter Valley community and for New South Wales,” Mr French said.
“Unemployment in the Hunter Valley is at eight per cent and to reject a project that would have continued to support this region for another 15 years, providing local people and their families with security, is incomprehensible.
“The PAC has ignored the detailed scientific assessments and peer-reviewed reports contained in the Project’s Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), NSW Government policy and the expert advice of 13 government agencies.
“This decision sends a terrible message about NSW as an investment destination.”
The PAC said the mine extension wasn’t approved due to the potential impacts of the mine on the neighbouring horse studs.
“It found that Anglo American has gone to great lengths to accommodate the Commission’s 2013 review by proposing to locate the Drayton South mine behind ridgelines, establish tree screens and provide buffers and by offering to relinquish any open cut mining options on areas of its site beyond that proposed in this application,” PAC said in a statement.
“Notwithstanding the concessions made by Anglo American, the proposal is to undertake open cut mining to within one kilometre of two of Australia’s most important thoroughbred breeding studs.
“The Commission found that at this proximity the mine poses risks to the reputation and, to a lesser extent, the operations of the Coolmore and Woodlands Studs.
“There would be potentially catastrophic consequences for the wider Hunter Equine Critical Industry Cluster, and consequently the NSW and Australian thoroughbred industry, should Coolmore and Darley leave the region.”
The Commission acknowledged that the project represents a significant 15-year employment opportunity for the local community, however, stated that the studs are the “cornerstone” of the Hunter Equine Critical Industry Cluster and “their future must also be secured”.
Mr French said “unfounded claims and threats from two horse studs have trumped the social and economic benefits of a considered, responsible project which has overwhelming community support”.
“Anglo American has worked tirelessly on this project since 2009, spent over $70m in studies and application fees, consulted widely and refined our proposal to accommodate legitimate concerns,” he said.
“This included reducing the project footprint by over 25 per cent, ensuring all mining operations remain behind the second ridgeline nominated by the previous PAC in December 2013. To provide our neighbours with additional certainty, we offered the NSW Government a binding agreement not to open cut mine in front of the designated second ridgeline.
“Only one side has been willing to compromise and we have worked within a planning system that has allowed all these concessions and scientific facts to be ignored, despite overwhelming public support for the project.”
Mr French said Anglo American will review the PAC’s report in detail and carefully consider the closure plan for Drayton.
“On behalf of Anglo American, I would like to thank the over 10,000 people who made positive submissions in support of the project to the PAC or spoke in support of Drayton South at the public hearing,” he said.
“This was done in a manner which reflects the strength of the community Drayton has operated in for more than 30 years.
“We are very mindful of the stress this challenging process placed on our workers, their families, our 140 suppliers and the community. Our immediate focus is on our people and full support will be given to them at this extremely difficult time.”
Workers have lined a fence on Drayton’s boundary with their high visibility work gear in a silent protest to show the human side of mining.
A petition has been signed by more than 2100 people in support of the Drayton Mine Extension.
Image: NSW Mining