Independent Planning Commission approves Maxwell underground mine near Jerrys Plains

Site of the Maxwell Underground mine near Jerrys Plains.
Site of the Maxwell Underground mine near Jerrys Plains.

For the company behind Maxwell Underground Project near Jerrys Plains, Malabar Resources, Christmas came early with today's decision by the Independent Planning Commission (IPC) to approve the mine.

But for the Hunter's thoroughbred industry and others opposed to the new mine it was a bitterly disappointing day, in a near decade long fight to prevent mining on land, adjacent to the Hunter River and neighbouring two the world's leading studs Coolmore and Godolphin.

It is the third coal mining proposal for the site and for many of the speakers at last month's IPC public hearing into the mine it was their fifth appearance at a planning commission hearing trying to convince the commissioners to go against a recommendation by the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment for the project to be given the green light.

Twice before the Planning and Assessment Commission (PAC), the forerunner to the IPC, rejected a proposal by mining giant Anglo American to develop an open mine adjoining their existing Drayton mine.

The second rejection took place in February 2017 when the PAC said the proposal posed too greater risk to the linch pins of the Hunter's thoroughbred industry Coolmore and Godolphin studs.

All that was forgotten on the basis that this time it is an underground mine not an open cut mine and the fact the IPC has imposed 169 consent conditions on the project that will make all the objectors' concerns 'unlikely' to occur.

Today the IPC chaired by the former NSW Chief Scientist Mary O'Kane said "The Commission finds that, on balance, and when weighed against the relevant climate change policy framework, objects of the [Environmental Planning & Assessment] Act, [Ecologically Sustainable Development] principles and socio-economic benefits, the potential impacts associated with the Project are manageable, and the risks of adverse impacts on the environment are low."

That view was welcomed by Malabar Resources, chairman, Wayne Seabrook, who said, "Today's news is just the beginning of a much longer journey with our neighbours to ensure the project continues to meet the expectations of everyone in our community, many of whom we have been speaking with over the last eight years to get this project right."

"The Maxwell Underground Project represents immense potential for the communities of the Upper Hunter.

"It will deliver about 250 construction jobs and 350 jobs during operation into the region, generating $55 million in annual wages once the project is up and running.

"The project will also support local businesses and suppliers over the next three decades, and provide a real boost to the local economy, particularly during this challenging period."

The mine will produce approximately 148-million tonnes of Run of Mine coal over 26 years and provide $1 billion to $1.2 billion in royalties to the NSW State Government and around $150 million to the local Council and State Government through, payroll tax, land tax, levies, council rates, and council planning agreement payments.

Coolmore thoroughbred stud, Jerrys Plains. Photo supplied.

Coolmore thoroughbred stud, Jerrys Plains. Photo supplied.

The Hunter Thoroughbred Breeders Association (HBTA) described the decision to allow underground mining across the road from two of Australia's premier studs is extremely disappointing." Dr Cameron Collins, President of the Hunter Thoroughbred Breeders Association said

"This is a black day for our industry and the Hunter. Our concerns about the impacts of this mine on water, air, noise and blasting, aboriginal heritage and landscape remain unabated. In our view the claimed benefits of this proposal do not outweigh the environmental costs and risks to our community.

"We will carefully examine the IPC's determination and consider our options."

He called on the NSW Premier to step in now and deliver on the protections needed to safeguard our industry.

According to Lock the Gate the appalling decision to greenlight the damaging Maxwell Underground coal is further evidence the authority now exists solely to rubber stamp controversial projects for the NSW Government and Planning Department.

The coal mine will compromise strategic farmland, will reduce base flow to the Hunter River, and will be responsible for about 377 million tonnes of CO2 emissions over its lifespan.

In other mining news last week the NSW Land and Environment Court rejected an appeal by Korean company Kepco against an IPC determination to reject approval of a open cut and underground mine in the Bylong Valley.