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Blow dealt to Anglo American expansion project

World Coal,

A potentially fatal blow has been dealt to Anglo American’s coal mine extension proposal. The mining giant sought to extend the life of the Drayton thermal coal mine, however, the New South Wales (NSW) state Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) has refused to grant Anglo the requested license.

The commission’s decision reverses an earlier approval for the mine extension by government regulators.

Anglo argued the extension was essential to protecting 500 jobs at the 5 million tpa coal mine, which is nearing the end of its operating life.

Stephen Galilee, CEO of the NSW Minerals Council lobby group said the decision would “add hundreds more people to the growing ranks of Hunter jobless, at a time when unemployment in the region is rising and more jobs are needed, not less.”

The commission said the extension of the Drayton mine was not in the public interest and posed a threat to thoroughbred and tourism industries in the Hunter region.

Horses come first

Hunter Valley thoroughbred breeders have celebrated the news of the coal mine’s rejection.

Darley Australia managing director, Henry Plumptre, said the PAC’s decision ended an “agonising” wait for his industry and preserved the thoroughbred industry for the future.

"I think it's overwhelming relief, first and foremost, because it was never a battle about winning and losing - it was about preserving an industry," Plumptre said. "We campaigned very much on the basis that we, along with other pillars of agriculture in the Hunter Valley, were going to be the victims of any further mining approvals in the Hunter Valley because we wouldn't be here in 20 to 25 years time."

Galilee said it was “extremely disappointing that we have a planning system in New South Wales that puts the helicopter views of millionaire racing identities over the jobs of working people in the Hunter."

Galilee said he does not believe the decision is based on the merits of the Drayton South project, or the available science.

"It's been swayed by emotion rather than argue a case on its merits, and what is extremely disappointing from an industry perspective is there are thousands of jobs that have been lost across the industry over the past two years, and there are thousands more at risk," he said. "This is a very bad sign that the government is prepared to let jobs go."

‘Final’ decision

The NSW state's planning department initially gave conditional approval for the extension of the mine in 2013, despite opposition from the commission. The commission said its decision on Tuesday was final.

Anglo American did not immediately respond to a request from Reuters for comment.

Edited from various sources by Sam Dodson

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