WOULD Muswellbrook Shire have profited if the Independent Planning Commission (IPC) approved the Kepco Bylong Australia Pty Ltd development?
Mayor Martin Rush believes so, but he wasn't shocked by the IPC's ruling to reject the open cut and underground facility in the Bylong Valley last week.
The company had sought authorisation to extract up to 120 million tonnes of coal over 25 years for the thermal export market.
However, the three-person panel - made up of chair Gordon Kirkby, Wendy Lewin and Stephen O'Connor - knocked back the new mine in the state's central west, citing concerns about long-lasting environmental, agricultural and heritage impacts.
The commissioners not only met the applicant and the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment to consider the application, but also representatives from the Mid-Western Regional and Muswellbrook Shire councils.
The IPC also hosted a public meeting, which raised the issues of the loss of prime agriculture land; air quality and greenhouse gas emissions; biodiversity; groundwater and surface water impacts; heritage impacts; noise and blasting; and economic and social benefits, including job creation.
After considering all the evidence and weighing the community's views, the commission determined to refuse development consent for the mine.
"I wasn't surprised by the decision, but some of the reasons given for the decision," Cr Rush said.
"Since the [proposed] mine is situated in the neighbouring council area of Mid-Western Region, we were involved in the process.
"Council made a submission as the road authority for Bylong Valley Way."
When asked if Muswellbrook, as well as the villages of Kandos and Rylstone, might have benefitted from the mine going ahead, Cr Rush responded:
"In council's view, the majority of the mining workforce for the proposed mine would've come from the Hunter Valley," he said.
"A 2007 study into the living arrangements for mining workforces noted that the decision as to where to live was dominated by existing residential arrangements, proximity to the coast and large urban centres and travel time.
"The first two indicia point to Denman, Muswellbrook, Singleton, Cessnock and Maitland being the main centres for accommodating the mining workforce for the Bylong mine.
"So, taking that into account, there would have been economic benefits for the shire of Muswellbrook."
One of the organisations deeply disappointed by the verdict was the NSW Minerals Council.
It slammed the IPC, with CEO Stephen Galilee saying it highlighted the utter failure of the NSW planning system.
"The refusal by the faceless Independent Planning Commission on the Kepco Bylong mining project represents everything that is wrong with the NSW planning system - and still the Planning Minister and NSW Government do nothing," he stated.
"It's a massive lost opportunity for the local region and, in particular, the communities of Kandos and Rylstone where the economic injection from the jobs and investment associated with the project are desperately needed.
"This refusal comes after more than seven years of assessment, including repeated changes to the processes and requirements during this period, showcasing just how difficult and complicated the current NSW planning system has become.
"It's an absurd and dangerous economic approach that risks making NSW an international investment laughing stock, losing investment and jobs due to uncertainty on who sets planning policy in NSW - faceless bureaucrats or elected representatives?"
However, Cr Rush feels the NSW Minerals Council overstepped the mark with its criticism of the IPC.
"The statement by the NSW Minerals Council was not only untruthful but also terribly damaging of the important relationship between the independent planning authority and the NSW mining industry," he said.
"The comments do an enormous disservice to the NSW mining industry.
"And, I'm sure the individual members of the NSW Minerals Council will be questioning the wisdom of the NSW Minerals Council making those sorts of emotional and untruthful comments.
"It cannot possibly be in the interests of the NSW mining industry to be engaging in that sort of behaviour."
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