Local community split over mine expansion at Wollar

BOYCOTT: Protesters outside the public hearing for the proposed expansion of the Wilpenjong mine near Wollar.

BOYCOTT: Protesters outside the public hearing for the proposed expansion of the Wilpenjong mine near Wollar.

The proposed expansion of the Wilpenjong mine near Wollar is continuing to split the small community.

A public hearing was held at the Mudgee Town Hall on Monday, allowing members of the public to address the Planning Assessment Commission, who are currently considering if the expansion should be given the green light.

Peabody Energy are proposing for the mine to continue operation for an extra seven years on the leased land. The current approval allows the mine to operate for another 10 years, so this extension would take the project until 2033.

A group of around 40 protesters staged a boycott outside the meeting with signs that read  “Public hearings deny your legal rights” and “No right of appeal in court with public hearings… No justice.”

Wollar Progress Association president Bev Smiles organised the boycott, saying the group wanted to highlight the lack of ability to appeal the final decision from the commission.

“We will be sending very detailed submissions against the expansion instead of only being allowed five minutes in-front of three commissioners.

“We’re the first community to boycott a public hearing, mainly to demonstrate to the broader community how biased the planning system is against rural communities,” she said.

Inside the town hall, it was a very different story,  with the majority of the speakers at the PAC hearing using their time to support the mine expansion.

Local residents, businesses and mine workers all made submissions.

Wollar resident Margaret Reid sold her property to the mine when it first opened and used her submission to talk about the benefits of living and working on the land alongside the coal mining operation.

“The mine isn’t the source of Wollar’s decline, it’s simply the case of small villages declining even without mining.

“The mine has spent a lot of money with the school and churches and continue to operate the village shop for the local community.

“As someone that never wanted a coal mine anywhere near Wollar, it hasn’t been the huge problem people make it out to be.”

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