THE New South Wales Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) has recommended that Anglo American’s Drayton South Coal Mine proposal should not proceed, stating that it had balanced the economic, social and environmental factors and identified a real risk to the thoroughbred horse breeding industry and to diversity within the Hunter Valley economy.

The PAC said this risk was considered to limit capacity to provide long-term economic growth to local communities, the region and the State. It noted there were a significant number of viable open cut mining operations in the Hunter Valley that it had approved, and more still to come that were approvable.

“While the commission recommends that the proposal does not proceed, it notes that Anglo American has sought limited additional mining within the existing Drayton pits and is satisfied this is acceptable and approvable, subject to conditions.”

Anglo American Coal CEO Seamus French said, “This is the worst possible outcome for our workers, the Hunter Valley community and NSW. Unemployment in the Hunter Valley is at 8% and to reject a project that would have continued to support this region for another 15 years, providing local people and their families with security, is incomprehensible.

“The PAC has ignored the detailed scientific assessments and peer-reviewed reports contained in the project’s Environmental Impact Statement, NSW Government policy and the expert advice of 13 government agencies.

“Anglo American has worked tirelessly on this project since 2009, spent more than $70 million in studies and application fees, consulted widely and refined our proposal to accommodate legitimate concerns. This included reducing the project footprint by more than 25% and ensuring all mining operations remain behind the second ridgeline nominated by the previous PAC in 2013.

“Only one side has been willing to compromise and we have worked within a planning system that has allowed these concessions and scientific facts to be ignored, despite overwhelming public support.”

The PAC stated that it had considered the potential impacts of the open cut mine on neighbouring horse studs. “Notwithstanding the concessions agreed to by Anglo American, the proposal is to undertake open cut mining to within 1km of two of Australia’s most important thoroughbred breeding studs. The commission found that at this proximity the mine poses risks to the reputation and, to a lesser extent, operations of the studs. The mining and thoroughbred land uses are vastly different and are not compatible in close proximity.”

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