THE Muswellbrook Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI) has reaffirmed its backing of the Mount Pleasant expansion.
The Independent Planning Commission (IPC) panel of chair Alan Coutts, Dr Peter Williams and Professor Zada Lipman fronted a packed house at the Upper Hunter Conservatorium of Music last Wednesday to hear views about a proposal to extend the life of the Muswellbrook open cut mine beyond 2020.
Mount Pleasant was originally approved in 1999 but only recently begun construction.
Its agreement to mine ends in 2020, so a modification is needed for it to proceed.
MACH Energy, who purchased the venture two years ago, will seek to extend mining to 2026.
And, it has the full support of the MCCI, according to president Mike Kelly, who spoke at the IPC hearing.
“Since July, 2017, we’ve had the benefit of witnessing the substantial progress made with the construction and infrastructure at the Mount Pleasant site – and the start of mining operations,” he said.
“We have also had the opportunity to experience the social and economic impacts flowing from the project locally.
“Several years ago, in the aftermath of the mining downturn, Muswellbrook boasted almost 300 empty houses, depressed property values and slowed [economic] activity.
“Since the return of coal prices to sustainable levels, and the commencement of works at Mount Pleasant, we’ve seen a substantial uplift in the local economy.
“Today, stock of property for sale is back to normal levels with increased values, hotels and motels are enjoying high occupancy rates and it is very difficult to find a rental property in Muswellbrook.
“There are a number of factors influencing the market but the Mount Pleasant project has made a considerable contribution.
“With MACH Energy investing almost $600 million, there has to be a substantial spin-off for the local region.
“Employment on site of more than 250 people now and the prospect of the ongoing workforce of 380, plus up to 350 part-time construction workers, is only the ‘tip of the iceberg’.
“When one looks at a multiplier of 2:1 or possible 3:1, we expect that the employment impact is in excess of 1000 jobs.
“MACH Energy has continued the tradition of community contributions, established by previous owners Coal & Allied, too.
“The company’s reportedly made donations to 20 organisations in Muswellbrook, Aberdeen and Denman, totalling $300,000.”
Mr Coutts said the IPC hoped to make a decision before July 20.