Coal Rocks On, Features

Minerals Council goes to war over Bylong

By Eve Sinton • Fossil Fool Bulletin 27 September 2019

The NSW Minerals Council’s campaign to discredit a recent decision by the Independent Planning Commission (IPC) is an insult to farmers who are battling the drought, according to Lock the Gate Alliance.

The IPC recently ruled Kepco’s controversial and destructive coal mine planned for the Bylong Vally, should be rejected due to unacceptable impacts on groundwater, strategic agricultural land, and the heritage values of the Bylong Valley.

The NSW Minerals Council has launched a public advertising campaign, with great fanfare in the Murdoch media, calling for urgent changes to the NSW planning system.

The campaign kicked off on September 23 with print, radio and online advertising claiming the planning system is broken, costing jobs and investment in regional NSW.

Planning minister pressured

According to the Daily Telegraph, the campaign is backed by a multimillion-dollar ‘fighting fund’ from industry and will be expanded throughout the state after initially targeting Sydney.

The DT took the campaign direct to NSW Planning Minister Rob Stokes, who was due to speak to an ‘I, human in the climate emergency’ event on October 31. The Tele offered to pay his airfare to talk to ‘devastated locals’ in the Bylong Valley instead. Stokes dumped his conference appearance and told the Tele he was planning his own trip to the Bylong Valley.

Meanwhile, The Australian reportedKorean power giant Kepco had been encouraged to ask for talks with the NSW government over rebooting the rejected mine during a meeting with Resources Minister Matt Canavan in Seoul on September 23.

The unfolding coal war demonstrates the miners’ disproportionate influence compared to community groups such as the Bylong Valley Protection Alliance and Lock the Gate.

Job opportunities exaggerated

A full-page Tele advert shouted about the loss of 1,100 jobs without mentioning they are only potential jobs, of which 650 are temporary construction jobs and 450 are operational jobs.

With mining companies enthusiastically pursuing automation, such as driverless trucks, the figures are likely to be an exaggeration. Truck drivers make up around half the average mine’s workforce, but are set to be eliminated as automation takes hold.

The Minerals Council portrayed the IPC as an ‘unelected and unaccountable body’ and obviously wants politicians – easily swayed by industry donors and lobbyists – to control the planning process.

Factors like environmental law, science, and the opposition of local people who would be disastrously impacted by the mine don’t rate any acknowledgement from mining spokesman Stephen Galilee or his Murdoch facilitators.

Phillip Kennedy, a Bylong Valley farmer, said: “It is obscene that the NSW Minerals Council is running a campaign like this during an intense drought which doesn’t look like ending any time soon.

“There are whole towns running out of water.

“Feed is so scarce right now – we need to conserve the land and water we have so we can grow fodder.

“We cannot sustain both vitally important agriculture and a dirty great big coal mine.

“We’ve got the equivalent of a little bathtub in the Bylong Valley, not the Great Artesian Basin. The NSW Minerals Council has no idea – Bylong is a unique, small valley and it is ridiculous for anyone to think a mine won’t impact the water and farmland here.”

Fodder for starving farm animals further west is being sourced from the Bylong Valley.

Water resources at stake

Lock the Gate Alliance spokesperson, Georgina Woods said, “The Minerals Council is out of touch with the priorities of drought affected regions attempting to safeguard water resources.

“There’s no future for regional NSW if we sacrifice precious water resources for the sake of a short-term mining grab. That’s what the Independent Planning Commission understood: development must provide for future generations, not short-change them

“It’s common sense that there are some places where open cut coal mining is not appropriate and our most fertile farmland is one of them.”

Muswellbrook Shire mayor Martin Rush told the Muswellbrook Chronicle he wasn’t surprised at the Bylong mine’s rejection, but said the NSW Minerals Council overstepped the mark with its criticism of the IPC.

Statement untrue, damaging

“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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