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A mixed view on the Shenhua Watermark coal mine

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World Coal,

Federal government approval has been awarded to the Shenhua Watermark coal mine, despite opposing concerns.

Environment Minister, Greg Hunt, said he approved the project with “18 of the strictest conditions in Australian history, which fully incorporate all advice” from an independent scientific committee.

There will be no impact on the availability of water for agriculture," Hunt said in a statement. "The conditions I have imposed limit water use to less than 0.09% of available groundwater – that's less than 1/1000th of the resource and less than the amount of water from one agricultural bore." He also stated that work would be stopped if any agricultural water supplies were affected.

The mine, located approximately 3 km west of the town of Breeza, is projected to produce a potential 268 million t of coal over its 30 yr operation.

"Today's decision to approve the Watermark Project is the final, irrefutable confirmation there will be no adverse impacts on the region's groundwater and impacts on sensitive ecological areas have been appropriately managed and offset," Paul Jackson, Shenhau's Project Manager, said.

Yet, concerns have been made about the proposed mine. It is estimated the mine will destroy 789 ha. of an endangered community and 148 ha of other woods.

Tim Duddy, a farmer whose land lies partly on the proposed site, commented on the decision: "It's not the water that they're taking that's the problem … It's the water that they're harming." He said Hunt had not comprehended the difference between so-called consumptive water extracted by farmers and the potential for intercepting and disrupting groundwater supplies in the region.

Larissa Waters, Deputy Leader of the Federal Greens, said: "The community will be appalled at their local member and Minister for Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce, who has grossly failed to protect the Liverpool Plains."

Yet, Stephen Galilee, CEO of the NSW Minerals Council, said the project had been "rigorously and extensively assessed over many years" and should now be permitted to proceed.

"There will always be some for which no amount of assessment will ever be enough until the answer is 'no'," Galilee continued. "It will have a small impact on land and water, while making a big economic contribution to the region, including much needed regional jobs."

Edited from Source: The Sydney Morning Herald by Harleigh Hobbs

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