Hogsback on the Bylong decision

HOGSBACK reckons that New South Wales’ coal mine development is now hostage to a spurious and arbitrary planning system that can undo years of expert guidance with the stroke of a pen.
Hogsback on the Bylong decision Hogsback on the Bylong decision Hogsback on the Bylong decision Hogsback on the Bylong decision Hogsback on the Bylong decision

The injustice of the system was this week exemplified by the decision of the Independent Planning Commission to not allow Kepco's proposed Bylong coal mine project to proceed.

Kepco was planning to extract 120 million tonnes of coal over 25 years at the proposed Bylong mine, which would have created 650 jobs during construction and 450 during production.

However, the IPC said it was not in the public interest as it was contrary to the principles of "ecologically sustainable development".

"While the commission found the mine's predicted air quality, biodiversity, noise, subsidence and visual impacts are acceptable and can be effectively managed or mitigated, it raised significant concern about other longer-lasting environmental impacts," the IPC said in its determination.

"The predicted economic benefits would accrue to the present generation but the long-term environmental, heritage and agricultural costs will be borne by the future generations."

It also found that the groundwater impacts would be unacceptable and greenhouse gas aspects of the project remained problematic.

The refusal came after more than seven years of assessment, including repeated changes to the assessment processes and requirements during this period, and with the support from the local community, local MPs, local council, and local businesses.

Even the NSW Department of Planning Infrastructure and Environment assessed that the project and found that it was approvable with conditions.

Yet despite this, a group of faceless men and women on the IPC decided to turn down the project, acting on behalf of the NSW government.

This is a great blow to the NSW coal mining industry, especially since Gloucester Resources' proposed Rocky Hill project was knocked back in the NSW Land and Environment Court earlier this year.

It is about time that government planning decision makers took the advice of experts in the field both from within and outside the coal mining industry to make decisions which allow for the ongoing economic fibre of coal mining regions as well as the creation of new ones.

There is an ongoing crisis in many NSW regional towns as the drought wreaks havoc on farming and populations dwindle as young people gravitate towards the city.

To ensure that economic growth in a sensible ecologically sustainable way returns to the regional areas of the state, the government's planners should not be refusing coal projects on the most flimsy of grounds.