NATHAN Tinkler’s Maules Creek mine at Boggabri is a step closer to reality after a state government planning commission recommended that it be approved on its merits.
But environmentalists and some western NSW residents are opposed to the project, which involves the clearing of more than 1600hectares of native vegetation, much of it ‘‘critically endangered box gum woodland’’ in the Leard state forest.
NSW Greens mining spokesman Jeremy Buckingham condemned the decision by the Planning Assessment Commission, saying it made a mockery of the O’Farrell government’s promise to protect sensitive environments and agricultural land.
‘‘The Leards forest has been identified as tier one biodiversity land in the recent strategic regional land use plan for the north-west,’’ Mr Buckingham said.
‘‘The government should put on hold any further consideration of this project until the land-use plans have been finalised.’’
Maules Creek was proposed in the early 1990s by Coal & Allied but the plan proposed now by Mr Tinkler’s Aston Resources is a much larger operation with production of up to 13million tonnes a year.
In an indication of the scale of the modern industry, the assessment panel said a mine of this size was no longer ‘‘unusually large’’, although at 15 seams it was ‘‘relatively deep’’.
The commission said Maules Creek and the nearby Boggabri and Tarrawonga mines created ‘‘potential cumulative impacts’’ that required ‘‘some attention’’.
It said ‘‘strong community engagement’’ was essential ‘‘to ensuring mining can successfully coexist in any community’’.
‘‘The likely scale of mining in this region, will make this issue even more significant,’’ the commission also said.
Aston Resources chief executive Peter Kane welcomed the report and said the company would prepare its submission to the planning department on the commission’s recommendations.
Carmel Flint of the Northern Inland Council for the Environment said ‘‘a long history of failed mine rehabilitation in this country’’ showed forest would never be replaced.
She said the approvals process was not finished and environmentalists still wanted the government to reject the project.