LONG-feared changes have begun to the Lower Hunter village community of Bulga because of a big mine expansion.
Residents say the anticipated acquisition of 24 properties because of noise and dust from the Mount Thorley Warkworth mine will strike at the ‘‘heart’’ of the village.
Coal & Allied have identified the properties for voluntary acquisition.
Owners can request the company buy the properties because of the impact of noise and dust from the expanded operation of the Mount Thorley Warkworth mine.
The project will bring operations to within 2.6 kilometres of Bulga.
The company says it has begun negotiations with landowners who have ‘‘formally requested’’ acquisition but could not comment on individual cases.
The well-known Cockfighter Creek Tavern owned by Margueriette and Paul Burgess is one of the properties.
The couple say owning licensed premises makes their situation difficult.
They depend on customers and if the village starts to empty they are not sure they have a future.
‘‘Who can we sell to, where do we go and what do we do?,’’ Mrs Burgess said.
The couple have a child aged two, whose respiratory health is a concern and they care for elderly parents, who live with them in a dwelling attached to the pub.
‘‘Without the tavern, that would be the end of the community as well,’’ Mrs Burgess said.
The couple say they want to stay in Bulga.
Bulga Milbrodale Progress Association spokesman John Krey, who lives outside the zone, said Putty and Wambo roads divide properties that are identified for acquisition and those that are not.
‘‘The properties in the zone are in the heart of the village,’’ Mr Krey said. ‘‘What the company will do with them we don’t know,’’ he said.
He said the properties were a significant proportion of the 150 properties in the village.
Singleton Council general manager Lindy Hyam said negotiations with Coal & Allied on a financial package for the community were continuing.
The deadline for the agreement, part of the project’s consent conditions, is Friday, August 3, but Ms Hyam expects that date to be extended.
Meanwhile, the progress association’s legal challenge to the mine expansion begins in the Land and Environment Court on August 20.