Draytons scales back mine plan as protest mounts, video

OPPOSED: Gai Waterhouse campaigning against Drayton Coal.
OPPOSED: Gai Waterhouse campaigning against Drayton Coal.

DRAYTON Coal has scaled back plans for its controversial Drayton South mine in response to mounting pressure for the government to reject  the project.

Under the revised plans, submitted in February and released by the Department of Planning yesterday, the mine would not be seen by neighbouring horse studs.

It came on the same day that the Hunter Thoroughbred Breeders Association launched a campaign against the mine featuring 27 representatives from the horse racing, tourism and agriculture industries.

Celebrated horse trainer Gai Waterhouse said protecting the Hunter Valley’s thoroughbred industry from the impacts of coalmining was a ‘‘no brainer’’.

The Hunter Thoroughbred Breeders Association also released a YouTube video yesterday titled Save the Hunter Valley.

‘‘Supporting this campaign is a no brainer.  We have an international asset, one of the world’s best breeding grounds, right here in NSW’s Hunter Valley,’’ Ms Waterhouse said.

‘‘It beggars belief that they are threatened by mining.  Premier O’Farrell, this industry should be protected.’’

The Planning Assessment Commission recommended in December that the previous Drayton South mine proposal should not be approved. It said the mine would threaten the region’s economic diversity and air and water quality. 

A Hunter Thoroughbred Breeders Association spokeswoman said it was reviewing the revised mine plan. 

Anglo American’s Drayton South project director Rick Fairhurst said the revised mine plan was a positive step forward for the project and the 500 employees and 140 local businesses that depend on continued work. 

“Drayton South is an important project securing the economic prosperity of the Hunter Valley and would mean hundreds of direct jobs for local people as well as flow on benefits to the region,’’ he said. 

“When we presented to the PAC last October, we strongly believed we had already made the right changes to the mine plan to allow us to continue to work alongside other industries and our thoroughbred horse breeding neighbours. 

“However, in light of the PAC report on the project and our commitment to coexistence, we have agreed to make even further changes to the mine plan.’’

NSW Minerals Council chief executive Stephen Galilee said it was important to reach a compromise to protect workers in all Upper Hunter industries, including the 500 miners at Drayton.

‘‘We should be working together to find a compromise that saves the jobs of the 500 Drayton miners, as well as those in other local industries,’’ Mr Galilee said. ‘‘Thoroughbred breeding and mining have much in common. Both provide important jobs for local people. Both have  impacts that can be controversial, whether it be the social impacts of gambling or the environmental impacts of mining.’’