IN a decision that has left the Hunter's thoroughbred industry reeling, the NSW Government today announced it would renew the Drayton South exploration licence (EL), which paves the way for the development of an underground mine on the site near Jerrys Plains.
The site, located adjacent to two of the world’s leading thoroughbred studs Godolphin (Woodlands) and Coolmore, is also nearby to the region’s major water source, the Hunter River.
Hoping to appease the equine studs, the government said there would be no open cut mining at the Drayton South site.
But, the horse breeders and their supporters have been fighting to have Drayton South’s EL 5460 cancelled to prevent any mine development at the site.
The two studs, the linchpins of the local industry, have in the past threatened to leave the Hunter unless the government cancelled the EL and ensured there was no mining near their operations.
The EL had expired on April 1, 2016, and the purchase of the now closed Drayton open cut and Drayton South sites by Malabar Coal, from its owners Anglo American, was dependent on the renewal of the licence.
Given the government’s announcement today it would be expected Malabar Coal will proceed with the sale and begin the work on making a development application for an underground mine at Drayton South.
Malabar Coal also owned the neighbouring yet to be developed Spur Hill mine underground.
This move by the government clearly shows they have not been listening to the thoroughbred industry who now expect to have years of landuse conflicts and Planning Assessment Commission battles costing millions.
Minister for Planning and Housing Anthony Roberts said the proposed amendment to state mining and planning policies would prohibit open-cut mining on the Drayton South exploration licence no matter who owns the land and would protect the valuable and world renowned horse studs in the area.
Mr Roberts said the project had been the subject of recommendations by the independent Planning Assessment Commission after merit-based assessment processes.
“PAC has twice refused open cut mining applications on the Drayton South exploration licence area and determined that open cut mining is incompatible with the unique combination of existing land uses in the area,” he said.
“The NSW Government has now taken action to address this incompatibility by proposing that applications for open cut mining cannot be made over the Drayton South exploration license.
“This will bring certainty to the community and local industry, including the internationally renowned equine operations in this area.”
Upper Hunter MP Michael Johnsen welcomed the move, saying it would potentially create hundreds of jobs in the mining sector and also protect the valuable horse stud industry nearby.
“This is a sensible compromise that allows for mining, but is mindful of the needs of the equine industry. It’s a win/win for both sectors,” he said.
Underground mining exploration will be permitted on the site, potentially providing jobs and boosting the local economy.
“Given the protections the NSW Government is putting in place, I have renewed EL 5460 to permit exploration activity for underground mining only,” Minister for Resources Don Harwin said.
“As part of the renewal Malabar Coal has agreed to voluntarily relinquish all of the licence area south of the Golden Highway.”
Malabar Coal chairman Wayne Seabrook thanked the NSW Government for the opportunity to produce a scientific basis for an underground mine at the site that meets the high expectations of the local community.
“We are very pleased to be provided with this opportunity to develop a vastly different proposal for a future underground mine on the site,” he said.
“With the exploration licence renewed, we will now turn our attention to undertaking the very rigorous and detailed technical studies required to prepare a development application, which will incorporate the existing Drayton Mine infrastructure.
“If approved, Project Maxwell will create around 350 new direct jobs into the local community, $1.7 billion in royalties over the initial 30-year period, $600m per year in export income for NSW, $55m per year in wages and $100m per year in taxes.
“We are confident that, by mining underground, we can address concerns about past open cut proposals.
“An underground approach will make a dramatic difference in terms of impacts associated with dust, light, blasting, and noise.
“It will also mean the mine cannot be seen or heard from the local horse studs, which will be at least 5km away from the mine entry, and 15km away from the existing coal processing and rail infrastructure.
“As we have to date, we will continue to work closely with the local community to ensure that any concerns they may have are addressed in any future application.
“This is a common-sense decision from the NSW Government that recognises that rural communities need diverse economies if they are to continue to thrive.
“The Hunter Valley is a perfect example of this.
“For well over a century many different sectors have worked side by side here, creating a wide range of jobs for a wide range of people.
“A new mine at EL 5460 would allow that to continue for generations to come.”
The community can make submissions on the proposed amendments until December 14.
To view the proposed changes to the Mining and the State and Regional Development policies, visit http://www.planning.nsw.gov.au/draytonsouth