In a landmark ruling, the NSW Independent Planning Commission (IPC) decided to refuse development consent for the KEPCO Bylong Coal Project.
The controversial Korean Government-backed project proposed to develop both an open cut and underground coal mine producing up to 120 million tonnes of coal over 25 years.
In a 146-page document, the IPC cited multiple long-term impacts to the environment and land were the mine to go ahead, including air quality, greenhouse emissions, the loss of agricultural land and impacts to heritage.
The Mudgee Guardian reached out to some of the biggest players in the story of the Bylong Coal Project for their thoughts on the IPC decision.
Warwick Pearse, Secretary of the Bylong Valley Protection Alliance (BVPA) said he congratulated the IPC on their decision.
"You could say we're immensely relieved. The BVPA a represents landholders, past and present in the Bylong Valley and people living in the area. It's a local group," Mr Pearse said.
"We congratulate the IPC on acknowledging the threats to water. What may not be obvious to some is the valley is very agriculturally productive but dependent on groundwater so the mine presented a significant risk to the groundwater the farmers relied on.
Seven years, $700 million already invested and another $700 million to be spent in infrastructure to employ 450 permanent staff and still a knock back. What a disgrace.Mid-Western Council Mayor, Des Kennedy
"It would have alienated a substantial proportion of land that is currently used for agriculture in the valley like lucerne, cattle and sheep. The valley is still producing lucerne in the worst drought in recorded history so that's good."
A spokesperson for KEPCO told the Mudgee Guardian they're disappointed with the decision.
"KEPCO is disappointed by the decision, we are currently reviewing the statement of reasons for the decision and we are going through the document at the moment to understand what the IPC was thinking for their justifications," they said.
Mid-Western Regional Council Mayor Des Kennedy penned an opinion piece last week that was published by the Mudgee Guardian in which he clarified his support for the Bylong Coal Project and stressed that a decision needed to be made for the sake of families in the region.
In a statement to the Mudgee Guardian, Cr Kennedy said the decision was 'extremely disappointing'.
"Today's refusal of the Bylong Coal Project by the Independent Planning Commission is extremely disappointing for our region, particularly the towns of Kandos and Rylstone that stood to benefit from long-term economic and social benefits of such a large project," Cr Kennedy said.
"Whilst it finally ends the uncertainty, following more than two years of assessment by the IPC, I am extremely disappointed with the outcome.
"This project was expected to provide around 650 jobs at peak construction and up to 450 jobs at peak operations, generating hundreds of millions of dollars for our region over 25 years."
He said mining still has a role to play in the region's economy.
"As I addressed in an opinion piece last week, towns such as Kandos and Rylstone have experienced significant hardship since the closure of the Kandos Cement Works, the Charbon mine and quarry, and have been crying out for private sector investment. Sadly, we have seen a number of businesses close due to the uncertainty of this project moving forward," he said.
"Whilst I understand the need to explore alternate energy supplies in the future there is still a role for mining to play in a strong and diverse economy.
"I think it is a real shame that the IPC wished to ignore the Department of Planning findings and really dig as deep as they could to find reasons to reject the mine. They seem to totally ignore the benefits it would have brought to the region.
"On a State Government level I am wondering what sort of message it sends to anyone wishing to invest in our State.
"Seven years, $700 million already invested and another $700 million to be spent in infrastructure to employ 450 permanent staff and still a knock back. What a disgrace."
Bev Smiles from the Wollar Progress Association said her immediate feeling upon hearing the news was relief.
"Look I'm just really relieved. From the Wollar perspective, if Bylong went ahead we'd have all the traffic through Wollar and on our roads," she said.
"You know, we were concerned that beautiful rich agricultural land was under threat too, there was the ongoing issue with trains, the whole water issue and the ongoing issue on the Goulburn River.
"It was going to have a massive cumulative impact. In addition to the three mines that we already have west of us. Having the prospect of a fourth large mine was overwhelming.
"It's pleasing to see that some sense has prevailed in the planning system - it seemed to be a bit absent up until now."