Hunter Valley mine makes economic sense: Bickham

MORE jobs than expected, 25 years of royalties and money pumped into the Hunter Valley economy are all good reasons to get the proposed 36 million tonne per annum Bickham mine up and running, according to its owners Bickham Coal Company.
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Courtesy Bickham Coal Company.

Angie Tomlinson

Economic research undertaken by the Hunter Valley Research Foundation has shown the proposed mine would create as many as 386 jobs to the Hunter Region economy, 286 of which would be full time jobs.

The figure surpasses New South Wales Department of Planning estimates of 100 full-time and 200 indirect jobs.

HVRF research showed the mine would boost the Hunter economy by up to $A150 million annually, or $3.7 billion over the 25-year life of the mine.

Royalties paid the New South Wales state government over the life of the mine could exceed $216.4 million.

The HVRF stated while the entire Hunter population increased by 8.6% between 1996 and 2006, the Upper Hunter population decreased by 7.8% over the same period.

During this 10-year period, the number of people in the working age population (25-39 year olds) fell by about 24%.

Although the Upper Hunter population grew more recently (2001-06), the HVRF said the

Bickham project could help continue the trend by drawing employees to the local area

– particularly those in the working age population.

It is expected that most employees would be male and new recruits that are likely to bring their families with them.

“We have always said we will employ local people where possible, and it’s welcome news that we may be able to create many more local jobs than first anticipated,” Bickham director John Richards said.

“At times it is difficult to keep count of how many people are contacting us to ask about job opportunities.

“We can only ask that people be patient as the planning process continues.”

Last year, the Department of Planning appointed an independent Planning Assessment

Commission Panel to look over the project and consider water management and protection issues.

The panel will hear community views in a public forum in Scone on March 17-18 before reporting to the Department of Planning next month.

Bickham has already completed a precursory water study at the request of the Department of Planning, claiming the study is “one of the most exhaustive mining project water studies undertaken in Australia”

In 2008, the company reduced the mine size by 25% and shifted the boundaries further away from local waterways to “put perceptions of possible environmental impacts beyond doubt”

“Given that we’ve spent more than $10 million following various planning processes since acquiring the site in 2002, we are hopeful of proceeding to full assessment soon and delivering this economic opportunity to the Upper Hunter,” Richards said.

“You would struggle to find a mining project anywhere in Australia that has been scrutinised as closely as the Bickham project, which is why we are at pains to deliver a project that’s economically beneficial and environmentally responsible.”