The Department of Planning has recommended that Anglo American’s revised plans for its controversial Drayton South expansion be approved.
The department’s recommendation, which includes a series of strict conditions, will now be considered by the independent Planning Assessment Commission.
The commission previously rejected the plans on the basis that the proposed expansion would have an adverse impact on the nearby horse studs, in particular noise and air quality.
But a department spokeswoman said new evidence about the mine’s impact combined with a willingness to conform to the commission’s original setback meant that it had recommended the project be approved.
“The department has concluded that, with appropriate management and mitigation measures, the two industries can continue to operate in proximity,” she said.
“Findings from the independent Commission’s two earlier assessments as well as responses from the community, the company, the Hunter thoroughbred industry, and agencies to these earlier processes have also been considered.”
“As a result of this extensive assessment, the Department has recommended the project be approved by the Commission subject to strict and updated conditions.”
The 23 conditions to manage dust, noise, blasting and water include strict air quality criteria to ensure dust emissions are minimised, stringent noise criteria to ensure construction, operational, low frequency, road and rail noise is minimised, strict blast criteria to ensure that blasting is undertaken in a safe and controlled manner and water management performance measures to minimise surface and groundwater impacts.
Hunter Thoroughbred Breeders Association president Cameron Collins said it beggared belief that the department continued to support the project against the expert advice of three independent PACs and the NSW Gateway Panel.
“The only people who have ever thought this project was approvable are either working for Anglo American or the Department of Planning,” he said.
He said he was amazed that the company had pushed ahead with the expansion plans against a backdrop where the mine’s owners have rendered the project as “non core” and put the mine up for sale.
"What is extraordinary about the department’s position is that it is prepared to allow the sacrifice of a sustainable long-term industry for the sake of one mine whose future is unknown,” Dr Collins said.
“The Department relies on economic “theories” that have no application in the realities of the breeding industry.”