Bylong: Agriculture Jobs vs Mining Jobs

Filed under Agriculture, Environment & Pollution, Mining, News ~ by Press on  18 Sep 2019

The commission found the environmental impacts, particularly on groundwater and productive agricultural land, would last long after the mine is decommissioned.

Pictured: Bylong Valley – image credit Kate Washington.

The Independent Planning Commission has rejected a proposed greenfield Bylong coal mine, in part because of its projected Greenhouse Gas Emissions.

This the first IPC decision in relation to a greenfield coal mine since the judgment of February 2019, when EDO NSW acted for Groundswell Gloucester to successfully stop the Rocky Hill coal mine – also partly on the basis of expert climate science evidence.

The Bylong proposal by KEPCO Bylong Australia Pty Ltd was for a mine with a life of 25 years, including both open-cut and underground longwall mining in a rural area.

Kepco is disappointed in the decision and we are reviewing the statement of reasons for the decision,” a spokesperson said.

The proposed mine had been recommended for approval by the then NSW Department of Planning and Environment, which makes today’s IPC refusal particularly notable.

Warwick Pearse, Secretary of the Bylong Valley Protection Alliance, welcomed the decision.

The IPC is to be applauded for recognising the need to consider the climate impacts of new coal projects,” he said.

The serious threats to water and agriculture in the Bylong Valley have also been recognised by the IPC and they have decided that the long term, adverse and irreversible effects of coal mining in the Bylong Valley outweigh the short-term gain in local jobs.”

In its Statement of Reasons for Decision, the Commission found (in summary):

• groundwater impacts would be unacceptable

• no evidence to support the Applicant’s claim that impacted Biophysical Strategic Agricultural Land (BSAL) can be rehabilitated post-mining to BSAL-equivalent

• given the expected level of disturbance to the existing natural landscape, the Commission does not consider that a recreated landscape post-mining will retain the same aesthetic, scenic, heritage and natural values; and

• greenhouse gas aspects of the Project remain problematical.

“The Project is not in the public interest because it is contrary to the principles of ESD (ecologically sustainable development) – namely intergenerational equity because the predicted economic benefits would accrue to the present generation but the long-term environmental, heritage and agricultural costs will be borne by the future generations,” the Commission concluded.

David Morris, EDO NSW CEO, said this was another significant step towards avoiding dangerous climate change.

We assisted our client, the Bylong Valley Protection Alliance, to put forward equivalent expert evidence to that relied on by the Land and Environment Court when it refused the Rocky Hill coal mine at Gloucester in February,” he said.

It is clearer than ever that the Rocky Hill judgment sets a best-practice standard when considering new fossil fuel developments.

This mine would have been even bigger – in fact much bigger – than Rocky Hill, with concomitantly bigger carbon impacts. In helping to stop this development, we acted in the public interest to constrain emissions and climate change impacts.”

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