‘Mistakes’ fuel mine questions 

HUNTER Valley ‘‘mistakes’’ in the management of open-cut mining have been cited as a reason for a proposed public hearing in the emerging coal shire of Narrabri.

Narrabri Shire councillor Bevan O’Regan said his shire was a ‘‘new frontier’’ for mining and coal seam gas, and residents were asking questions about what impact mining could have on their health.

‘‘We do not want to repeat the mistakes that are clearly evident in the Hunter Valley,” Cr O’Regan said.

He said the Hunter had suffered from the removal of planning control from local government through state-significant development laws.

The public hearing, expected before the end of the year, resulted from residents asking the council to invoke a section of the Local Government Act, never used before in Narrabri, he said.

“Section 734 is a special democratic instrument of the 1993 Local Government Act, which the council is able to use to ensure the health concerns of local people are properly addressed,’’ Cr O’Regan said, adding that the nearest open-cut mine was about 55 kilometres away from the town but the proposed Maules Creek mine would bring operations to about 12 kilometres away.

The shire also covers the Pilliga Scrub where a gas well, operated at the time by Eastern Star Gas and now by Santos, was found to have caused water pollution.

Cr O’Regan said the hearing was relevant to Hunter councils and residents because coal from Narrabri and Gunnedah was moved by rail through the Hunter Valley to  Newcastle for export.

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