THE Lock the Gate Alliance (LTGA) believes the reopening of a mine in the Upper Hunter will put the wellbeing of local communities at risk and is an unacceptable incursion into productive farmland.
The NSW Department of Planning and Environment recently completed its evaluation of the Dartbrook Coal Mine - Modification 7 (DA 231-7-2000 MOD7) and referred it to the Independent Planning Commission (IPC) for determination, after receiving an application from AQC Dartbrook Management Pty Ltd.
The IPC will listen to the community's views on the proposal at a public meeting, from 10am in the Atherstone Room of the Upper Hunter Conservatorium of Music, Muswellbrook, on Tuesday, April 9.
But, Lock the Gate is standing in solidarity with local families, farmers, business owners and health experts, who have united in opposition to the reopening of the Dartbrook coal mine.
The project, owned by Australian Pacific Coal, was recommended for approval by the NSW Department of Planning in February and is now before the IPC.
"Three deaths occurred at this mine before it was mothballed in 2006," LTGA spokesperson Georgina Woods said.
"There were also ongoing issues with gas, spontaneous combustion and flooding.
"Air quality is worsening in the Hunter Valley due to the presence of multiple coal mines, and residents are suffering.
"The Hunter Valley has already lost considerable good quality farmland to coal mining.
"Upper Hunter Shire has so far remained relatively unscathed, but there are fears this proposal is the thin end of a fat wedge of coal mining pushing into the shire.
"Our planning laws are frankly not up to the task and we call on all parties contesting this week's NSW Election to commit to making the strategic farmland of the region off-limits to coal mining once and for all."
Ms Woods said the proposal, if approved, would allow Australian Pacific Coal to undertake new "bord and pillar mining".
"The community sees this as a stalking horse for an open cut mine, which the company has previously said it wants," she added.
"There's nothing in the law that would prevent this site and the farmland that surrounds it from being open cut.
"Lock the Gate Alliance stands with the residents of Aberdeen and the Hunter Valley who want farmland to be off-limits to open cut coal mining."
Residents who'd like to speak in front of the panel must register their interest before 5pm on Monday, April 1.
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