“It’s a black day for jobs in regional NSW,” NSW Minerals Council CEO Stephen Galilee said as the news broke on Tuesday.
“The NSW Government seems too busy patting itself on the back for the recent increase in housing activity in Sydney to notice the reality of economic life in regional NSW.”
The rejected projects, Anglo American’s Drayton South open cut coal project which was going to save 500 jobs from the existing mine’s workforce in the Hunter Valley and Coalpac’s downscaled plans to extend both the Invincible and Cullen Valley mines in the Western Coalfields by four years, were both recommended for approval by the state’s planning and environment department over recent months.
Yet the expert panel of the Planning Assessment Commission, which has final state approval power over the projects which clock up enough critical feedback, ignored the various department findings and company project amendments in its twin verdicts last week.
In the case of Drayton South, the PAC found that the project’s economics did not outweigh the possible risk of losing the nearby Coolmore and Darley horse studs.
On Coalpac’s plans, it found that there was simply too much risk to the rare pagoda landform structures in the project area.
Galilee called the outcomes a brutal double blow for regional NSW and said they suggested the state government was prepared to do nothing while hundreds lose their jobs.
He also took shots at the PAC, with the Planning Minister holding final project approval power under the planning regime of the previous state government.
“Delegating state significant decisions to an unelected body like the PAC is a failure of leadership from the NSW government,” he said.
“It's an attempt to avoid the responsibility that comes with being in office, and it's a betrayal of the working people who will have to live with the consequences of these poor outcomes.
“The NSW government knows the planning system is broken, but has failed to fix it. In fact, since being elected, the NSW government has made the system worse.
“Instead of standing by and allowing hundreds of jobs to go, it's time for the NSW government to show some leadership and take back control of the planning system before more jobs are lost.”
Anglo coal division CEO Seamus French said the company will work through the PAC’s report to better understand its implications and “consider their options moving forward”.
Coalpac, which had entered voluntary administration about a year ago after a NSW planning department rejection of its coal project plans, will reportedly face liquidation according to the Daily Telegraph.
The next NSW state election is due on March 28, 2015.