Ben Cubby ENVIRONMENT EDITOR
March 5, 2011
THE Planning Minister, Tony Kelly, used the last few hours before the government went into caretaker mode to block a controversial coalmine plan for the central coast.
The Wallarah 2 mine would have been located beneath the seat of Wyong, held by Labor’s David Harris with a margin of 6.9 per cent.
Korea Resources Corporation, which is partly owned by the Korean government, was proposing to remove 4 to 5 million tonnes of coal a year for 42 years.
The project had already been delayed for two years by a local campaign which focused on potential damage that could be caused by the earth cracking open above the mining area, and by the mine’s huge need for water in a region that was until recently classified as in drought.
The NSW Planning Assessment Commission considered the project and noted the potential environmental problems, but stopped short of suggesting it be blocked. That decision was taken by the minister.
”The reality is, despite a lengthy and rigorous assessment, there remained simply too much uncertainty about the mine’s potential risks and, as such, I have decided the mine should not be approved,” Mr Kelly said.The NSW opposition, whose Liberal candidate and local electrician Darren Webber is hoping to claim the seat on March 26, had already pledged to oppose the mine.
The company said it was ”bitterly disappointed” by the government’s ruling and is understood to be considering whether it would reapply with a modified proposal.
“Both inquiries and two independent water reviews all found that there was sufficient information for the mine to be approved,” said a Korea Resources Corporation spokesman, Peter Smith.
“The decision will send very negative messages about NSW to the investment industry.”
Mr Harris said he had opposed the mine since 2007, and the decision was a victory for common sense.
The NSW Greens and environment groups supported the move to block the mine.
”For the first time an evidence-based decision has been made to reject a longwall coalmine in a gazetted water supply catchment area,” said a Total Environment Centre campaigner, David Burgess.
”It is vital that the next NSW government turns its attention to the ongoing impacts of longwall mining south of Sydney, where numerous mines operate side by side, and with mining planned across a quarter of Sydney’s water supply area.”
The government also gazetted a new state conservation area in the Gardens of Stone region of the Blue Mountains.
The 3600-hectare Mugii Murum-ban conservation area was to be subject to coalmining, but the intensity of the mining has now been wound back.
Other last-minute moves included granting several gold and precious gemstone exploration licences around Grafton, Casino, and Armidale. The companies include a subsidiary of listed company, Gullewa Ltd and Central West Gold NL.
Former Labor minister John Della Bosca was also given the right to refer to himself as the ”honourable”.