THE Independent Planning Commission will hold a public meeting on November 7 after the Department of Planning on Monday found the controversial new Bylong coal mine proposal was “approvable”.
The department’s assessment report was released on the day the world’s leading climate scientists warned that global warming had to be kept at 1.5 degrees Celsius to avoid dangerous climate impacts, with a significant reduction in coal consumption needed over the next decade.
The department report followed a Planning Assessment Commission review in 2017 which found substantial doubts persisted about the risks and benefits of the Korean Government-backed Bylong mine between Denman and Mudgee. The concerns included potential impacts on water and agricultural resources.
Independent Planning Commission chair Professor Mary O’Kane appointed a three-member panel to consider and make a determination of revised KEPCO plans for the mine which the Department of Planning on Monday said were “approvable”.
The department acknowledged Planning Assessment Commission concerns in 2017 that the project would lead to a fundamental shift in the valley in favour of mining over agriculture, and water security on which agriculture depends may be jeopardised.
The department acknowledged the agricultural impacts but said they were “mainly limited to the seven-year open cut stage”, and the company had committed to restoring at least 400 hectares of highest quality agricultural soil land after the project.
The department considered the first mine in the Bylong Valley “could represent a good example of co-existence of these important industries”.
The department also acknowledged concerns that the Bylong project, 170 kilometres from the Siding Spring Observatory at Coonabarabran, challenged the 2016 NSW dark sky guidelines.
A condition of consent was that KEPCO prepare a strategy in consultation with the Siding Spring director “to identify and implement measures to minimise the upward spill of light”.
The department said it had also recommended conditions removing mining from the historic Tarwyn Park property, including significantly increasing the distance of blasting from the Tarwyn Park complex of buildings from 107 metres to 1.4 kilometres.
“While there would be residual impacts on the local environment and community, acknowledging that social impacts have already occurred through the exploration and assessment stage, KEPCO through its iterative mine design has avoided, minimised, mitigated and/or offset impacts in accordance with NSW Government policy, statutory requirements and guidelines,” the department assessment report concluded.
The report was slammed by environmental activist group Lock the Gate.
“The recommendation to proceed with the Bylong mine shows the NSW Government is completely missing in action on climate change just as the IPCC warns warming beyond 1.5 degrees risks catastrophic heat and disruption” said Lock the Gate spokesperson Carmel Flint.
“Not only will this mine put the climate at risk, but new research shows it will take South Korean mining giant KEPCO one step closer to destroying a magnificent valley with state significant heritage values.”
The Independent Planning Commission panel will hear public submissions at Parklands Resort in Mudgee from 10am on November 7 about the department’s final assessment report.
Members of the public who want to speak are required to register on the commission’s website by 5pm on October 29. In a statement on Tuesday the Independent Planning Commission said merit appeal rights against a commission determination had been extinguished because the former Planning Assessment Commission had already held a public hearing.