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EDITORIAL: Rio Tinto’s inevitable victory

BULGA residents have vowed to use all peaceful means to prevent Rio Tinto’s Mount Thorley-Warkworth extension from going ahead.

The latest twist in the David and Goliath battle came on Thursday when the Planning Assessment Commission’s recommended the controversial project be approved, despite two court decisions rejecting similar applications.

“With every other avenue to protect our homes and peaceful valley from this massive open-cut coal mine exhausted, we are left with no choice but to draw a line in the sand,’’ Bulga resident Stewart Mitchell said.

The extension project will result in $719 million direct and indirect spending in the Hunter region and secure the employment of 1300 workers.

The commission’s panel acknowledged the project would have a significant impact on the surrounding environment and communities.

‘‘…the commission also recognises that the projects will result in adverse social and economic impacts, particularly on the Bulga Village and its residents, who are experiencing increasing mining encroachment from these and other mines,’’ the panel wrote.

Mount Thorley Warkworth general manager Mark Rodgers said the outcome was a vital step towards securing a strong future for Mount Thorley Warkworth mine.

BULGA residents have vowed not walk away from the David and Goliath battle to stop Rio Tinto’s Mt Thorley-Warkworth mine extension from destroying their community.

The Planning Assessment Commission recommended the controversial project proceed on Thursday despite two court decisions rejecting similar applications.

In response the small community and its supporters have issued the ‘‘Bulga Declaration’’ which promises to use all peaceful means to prevent the mine extension going ahead in future.

‘‘We are not going to walk away,’’ Bulga resident Stewart Mitchell, whose house backs onto the mine said.

“With every other avenue to protect our homes and peaceful valley from this massive open cut coal mine exhausted, we are left with no choice but to draw a line in the sand.’’

The commission’s panel acknowledged the project will have a significant impact on the surrounding environment and communities.

‘‘… the commission also recognises that the projects will result in adverse social and economic impacts, particularly on the Bulga village and its residents, who are experiencing increasing mining encroachment from these and other mines,’’ the panel wrote.

‘‘These impacts are likely to include impacts on property values; on the ability of residents to sell their properties in the future and environmental concerns, including notably noise and dust.’’

It recommended consideration should be given to compensating residents for the impacts.

The project will result in $719million direct and indirect spending in the region and secure the employment of 1300 workers.

More than 2000 individuals, groups and businesses made submissions about the project.

Mount Thorley-Warkworth general manager Mark Rodgers said the outcome was a vital step towards securing a strong future for Mount Thorley Warkworth mine.

He said the company would pay particular attention to the commission’s findings regarding the community of Bulga.

We have already been acting on one of its key recommendations, by offering voluntary acquisition to those residents who were granted acquisition rights under the Warkworth Extension 2012 planning approval.

“We are committed to working with community members to ensure there is a strong future for the village.”

NSW Minerals Council chief executive Stephen Galilee said the recommendation was great news for the mine employees and also for the ongoing economic stability of the the Upper Hunter.

‘‘In 2014, Mount Thorley Warkworth spent $188 million with more than 270 suppliers in the Upper Hunter region.”

“Hundreds of Upper Hunter residents employed by the local businesses who supply Mount Thorley Warkworth, will also now breathe a sigh of relief that their jobs are also looking more secure,” he said.

Shadow minister for resources Steve Whan said the decision would provide welcome certainty to the existing workforce.

‘‘Under the Abbott and Baird governments, unemployment has soared to 11.4 per cent in the Hunter Valley – up from 7.1 per cent a year ago.

‘‘The region has lost 14,000 jobs over the past year.

‘‘The Hunter is on a journey of economic diversification and renewal – but there is no question that mining remains vital to the region’s industry base.’’

The Planning Assessment Commission’s report will now be considered by the NSW Department of Planning and Environment, ahead of any determination of the development consent.