Bylong Valley mining rumours denied

A CATTLE farmer in the coal-rich Bylong Valley says former Labor minister Eddie Obeid lied to the press about mining coming to the area, a corruption inquiry has heard.

The Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) is probing whether Mr Obeid gained from a 2008 decision by former Labor minister Ian Macdonald to open up mining in the Bylong Valley, in the Upper Hunter.

The inquiry has heard the Obeids stood to make millions of dollars from an allegedly rorted tender process for exploration licences.

On Thursday, Bylong Valley cattle farmer Stuart Andrews was shown a December 2012 article from The Australian newspaper in which Eddie Obeid was reported as saying that in early 2008 ‘‘rumours were rife’’ about a mine in the Bylong Valley.

‘‘What do you say about that statement?’’ Geoffrey Watson SC, counsel assisting the commissioner, asked the witness.

‘‘There’s one word that I could use, but I won’t. I believe it to be untrue,’’ Mr Andrews replied.

‘‘Does the word you were thinking of start with B,’’ Mr Watson  asked.

‘‘It does,’’ Mr Andrews said.

Mr Andrews, who has lived in the Bylong Valley for 38 years, said he didn’t know anything about mining coming to the area until the beginning of 2010.

‘‘In 2003, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, did you, Mr Andrews, hear of any rumours of any mining activity in the Bylong Valley?’’ Mr Watson asked.

‘‘No, I did not,’’ Mr Andrews replied.

Earlier, Eddie Obeid’s lawyer, Stuart Littlemore, slammed the press for treating details of Obeid family trust accounts, tendered as evidence on Wednesday, with ‘‘appalling prurience’’.

Commissioner David Ipp said some people may have had financial benefit as a result of state assets being used unfairly, and it was in the public interest these matters were ‘‘ventilated’’. 

- AAP

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