Camberwell waits on coal report

The state government will announce today its strongest moves yet to rein in the impacts of Hunter coalmines, after experts warned of the need to take action on the exposure of Camberwell residents to dust limit breaches.

A new ministerial cabinet subcommittee will be formed to develop a ‘‘strategic plan’’ for coalmining in NSW by the end of the year, as part of a government response to the findings of a long-awaited independent study of the cumulative effects of mining on the village.

However, today’s announcements are not expected to include a broader health study of the region.

The government will release the Camberwell study, which is tipped to pose difficulties for mining extensions and new projects worth about $1billion that are proposed for the village’s fringes.

It will confirm Newcastle Herald reports that experts found daily fine dust concentration levels exceeded limits at monitoring stations in and near the village between 10 to 30 days a year.

However, annual average ‘‘PM10’’ dust levels are said to have been ‘‘consistently’’ below the standards government departments use to assess mine proposals.

Despite that, the government’s new air pollution expert panel recommended last month to NSW chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant that action should be taken to reduce the exposure of Camberwell residents to dust, after it reviewed the study.

The new cabinet subcommittee will bring together the portfolios of Planning, Infrastructure and Lands, Health, Treasury, Environment, Climate Change and Water, and Industry and Investment.

Planning and Lands Minister Tony Kelly will also announce the appointment of two full-time Planning Department compliance officers, to be based in the Upper Hunter from the end of next month, to monitor mines’ compliance with the conditions of their approval.

Mr Kelly said the study’s findings, as well as further air-quality information the government asked mining companies operating near Camberwell to produce, would ‘‘inform a range of decision-making about any future mines’’.

Mines around Camberwell would be required to employ ‘‘best practice’’ dust and noise control measures, which would include real-time monitoring and limits on operating practices to reduce emissions, he said.

Government staff will meet with Camberwell residents to outline the study findings.

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