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Drayton South extension rejected by PAC

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World Coal,

The New South Wales Planning Commission (PAC) has rejected Anglo American’s proposed Drayton South expansion project in order to protect two thoroughbred horse studs, despite acknowledging the substantial concessions made by the mining company in response to the PAC’s 2013 review.

“The proposal […] to undertake open cut mining to within 1 km of two of Australia’s most important thoroughbred breeding studs […] poses risks to the reputation and, to a lesser extent, the operations of the […] studs,” the PAC said in its ruling, adding that there would be “potentially catastrophic consequences for the wider Hunter Equine Critical Industry Cluster and consequently the New South Wales and Australian thoroughbred industry.”

The PAC also said that it had to have regard for the “wider reputation and brand of the State of New South Wales,” singling out the regions tourism and wine industries as reliant on the Hunter Valley’s reputation for “quality, clean and safe agricultural production.”

“It is with great difficulty that the commission has had to conclude that the land use conflict cannot be overcome,” said the PAC. However, the PAC did add that an additional mining permit application confining operations to the existing Drayton mine pits is “acceptable and approvable, subject to conditions.”

As a result of the PAC’s decision, Anglo American said the mine would wind down its operations next year, after 30 yr of operations.

“This is the worst possible outcome for our workers, for the Hunter Valley community and for New South Wales,” said Seamus French, Anglo American Coal CEO. “Unemployment in the Hunter Valley is at 8% and to reject a project that would have continued to support this region for another 15 yr, providing local people and their families with security, is incomprehensible.”

French also accused the PAC of placing the “unfounded claims of threats from two horse studs” above the scientific assessments and peer-reviewed reports contained in the projects Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), NSW Government policy and the expert advice of 13 government agencies.

“Anglo American has worked tirelessly on this project since 2009, spent over AUS$70m in studies and application fees, consulted widely and refined our proposal to accommodate legitimate concerns,” concluded French. “Only one side has been willing to compromise and we have worked within a planning system that has allowed all these concessions and scientific facts to be ignored, despite overwhelming public support for the project.

The New South Wales Minerals Council also criticised the PAC’s decision, which was released on the same day as it approved Rio Tinto’s Mt Thorley-Warkworth mine extension, calling it a “devastating blow for hundreds of workers at the project and their families leading into Christmas.”

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