French slams NSW planning decisions

THE New South Wales planning process is broken and needs urgent rectification, Anglo American Coal CEO Seamus French has declared, after the Planning Assessments Commission knocked back the Drayton South project in the Hunter Valley.
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Former NSW planning minister Rob Stokes and former NSW Premier Mike Baird discuss the Drayton South proposal.

Lou Caruana

French said the PAC decision was a severe blow to the coal industry in the Hunter Valley and the state generally, with consequences for future employment and investment.

“At the heart of the matter is the level of uncertainty faced by the natural resource industry in New South Wales,” he said.

“The final decision of the planning process lies with an organisation that, in the case of our project, appeared to disregard science-based evidence as well as the opinion of NSW government regulators, instead opting to provide a ruling without providing clear, fact-based reasoning.

“This decision is a disappointment for the people of New South Wales as the government has set aside all the direct and indirect jobs that the project would have supported, as well as $30 million in annual state government royalties.”

French said Anglo American would consider its options for the Drayton and Drayton South assets.

“The PAC’s rejection of a project that was significantly modified in order to conform to the first PAC recommendations is nothing less than devastating for the local community and our long serving local suppliers who have looked to this project for ongoing employment opportunities and $70 million worth of business every year,” he said.

“The direct loss to the Hunter Valley region is significant and well in excess of that generated by the neighbouring horse studs.

“There is no scientific or economic logic as to why coexistence between the industries could not have continued as has been the case for many years since the neighbouring studs moved into the valley and invested in properties adjoining the Drayton mine and its then well-defined extension mining leases.”

French said in its latest application for the Drayton South project, Anglo American followed all the requirements of the NSW government assessment process, consulted extensively and made multiple compromises through revised mine designs in order to reduce, manage and eliminate where possible any potential impact on the neighbouring horse studs.

“Significantly, the revised project plan sacrificed 53 million tonnes of coal resources, worth more than $5 billion in revenue, to move the mine behind ridgelines to negate the visual impacts on our neighbours,” he said.


“Our revised project submission not only obtained NSW’s government experts support but it also obtained an overwhelming number of positive submissions to the PAC.”