Calls to “stop the clock” and fix the system at Wilpinjong

Two community groups have rejected the latest assessment of the proposed Wilpinjong coal mine expansion project near Mudgee, and called on the NSW Planning Minister to “stop the clock” on the project until the “broken” assessment system is fixed.

The NSW Department of Planning has released its final Assessment Report for the project, again recommending that it proceed, despite fierce community opposition.

“According to the Planning Department, my community does not have the right to exist,” said Bev Smiles, of the Wollar Progress Association. 

“The Department acknowledges that the existing Wilpinjong coal mine has decimated my community over the past ten years, and they acknowledge that the proposed mine expansion would kill us off for good. The problem is, they just don't care. 

“This mine expansion is not needed. The mine already has approval to run for another ten years. The Department is working hand-in-glove with a bankrupt American coal company to kill off my community, instead of working with us to minimise social disruption from this project as it works towards mine closure in 2027, when its existing approval expires.”

“NSW mining policy is still broken, as the Wilpinjong coal mine project shows clearly,” said Steve Phillips, Hunter regional coordinator for the Lock The Gate Alliance. 

“There has been no proper social impact assessment for this coal mine. There has been no health impact assessment. There has been no assessment of the cumulative impact of this project with two other large coal mine projects in the vicinity. This project is opposed by local Aboriginal people because it would permanently destroy over 200 cultural areas, including a highly significant area containing rock art, artefacts, and an ochre quarry.”

“Despite all these failings, NSW government policy will allow this project to be approved. There is no balance in the assessment of coal mines in NSW, the whole system is rigged to ensure that mining companies get the approvals they desire.”

“The Planning Assessment Commission review of the Wilpinjong extension project called on the government to develop a 'high level strategic vision' for coal mining near Mudgee, and NSW more broadly, to identify where mining can, and importantly can't occur, and to ensure that cumulative impacts of multiple mining projects in an area can be properly accounted for.”

“We call on the Minister for Planning to stop the clock on the Wilpinjong assessment process until this recommendation from the PAC has been addressed.”

Wilpinjong General Manager, Blair Jackson recently explained the mine still has a few stages before it can be approved.

The Planning Assessment Commission will hold a public meeting on April 11 from 10:30am at the Mudgee Town Hall Theatre – 64 Market Street.

For anyone wishing to comment on the DP&E’s recommendation at the meeting, you must register to speak, by contacting Philippa Vale and 02 9383 2115 before 1pm on April 6.

More information: http://pac.nsw.gov.au/projects/2017/03/wilpinjong-extension-project