Protests against mining project rules 

RESIDENTS, farmers and activists will protest in Sydney tomorrow against proposed new rules for mining projects, amid criticisms the state government is abandoning a key election commitment with the rushed changes.

Groups including Bylong Valley Protection Alliance members and Bulga residents, as well as broadcaster Alan Jones, are expected to rally outside the Supreme Court.

It is set to hear Rio Tinto's and the state government's appeal of an earlier Land and Environment Court decision against the extension of the Mount Thorley Warkworth mine.

Approval for the project was overturned in April when a judge found its social and environmental impacts could not be justified.

The mining giant has argued its workers' jobs are in limbo.

The rally is also against the government's move to introduce a new planning policy for the assessment of mining projects.

The draft policy stipulates the size of the resource must be the principal consideration when a project is determined. Submissions closed yesterday, after two weeks of it being on exhibition.

In contrast, the government has yet to formally implement another policy that would put in place exclusion zones for coal seam gas wells on critical industry land and within two kilometres of residential areas, measures the cabinet endorsed in February.

Lock the Gate Alliance spokesman Steve Phillips said the government had walked away from promises to protect agricultural land and its "gateway process" for assessing mining projects.

"All that goes out the window with these changes, which basically make coal king," he said.

NSW Farmers president Fiona Simson said it was "grossly inadequate" to introduce "something with such large ramifications" with only a two-week exhibition period.

But NSW Minerals Council boss Stephen Galilee said the change was needed to restore investment certainty.

Planning Minister Brad Hazzard's office referred inquiries to the Department of Planning and Infrastructure.

A department spokesman said potential land-use conflicts would have to be considered before a development application could be lodged.

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