Gloucester coal fight prompts calls for 10 kilometre buffer zone

Buffer: Homes near the controversial Rocky Hill coal mine proposal south of Gloucester. The proximity of the mine to the town has prompted calls for a 10-kilometre buffer zone to protect NSW communities.
Buffer: Homes near the controversial Rocky Hill coal mine proposal south of Gloucester. The proximity of the mine to the town has prompted calls for a 10-kilometre buffer zone to protect NSW communities.

NSW towns and villages need to be ring-fenced to protect them from coal mining after Gloucester’s years-long campaign to stop the controversial Rocky Hill coal mine, a Planning Assessment Commission panel was told on Wednesday.

The national Lock the Gate Alliance has called for new state laws to put a 10 kilometre coal-free buffer zone around towns and villages because of evidence in the Hunter of the devastating impact of coal mining on small communities.

The call came in a submission to the Planning Assessment Commission during a public hearing into Gloucester Resource’s proposal for an open cut coking coal mine south of Gloucester.

The hearing includes discussion of a Department of Planning assessment that the mine should be refused because it is too close to Gloucester and nearby residents.

“We need the NSW Government to get serious about protecting communities from open cut coal mines and to stop risking residents’ health,” Lock the Gate Alliance's Naomi Hogan told the PAC.

“Health professionals are clearly presenting detailed evidence that the health risks of open cut coal mines are serious and should be avoided.

“Open cut coal mines expose nearby residents to poor air quality, toxic fumes from blast plumes, overburden fire risk, light and noise pollution.

“It is critical that the NSW Government takes action to install new state laws to put a 10 kilometre coal-free buffer zone around NSW towns and villages, to take the protection of residents’ health seriously.”

Ms Hogan said Gloucester and surrounding areas had been forced to deal with “the shadow of this inappropriate coal mine for five long years”.

“All the heartache and stress of this coal mine proposal could have been avoided with a clear buffer zone that protected the town from the outset,” she said.

The PAC is expected to make a decision before Christmas.