An Independent Upper Hunter candidate has compared locals complaining about the Drayton South mine to people who move next to an airport and complain about planes.
Independent candidate for the seat of Upper Hunter and former mayor, Lee Watts, threw her support behind Anglo American’s Drayton South coal mine near Muswellbrook.
Watts said the mine had been part of the local area for decades, and lamented The Planning Assessment Commission’s rejection of the project, ABC reported.
"I say it's an expansion," Watts said.
"The mine should be able to continue their operations in the area just as the horse studs should be able to continue theirs.
"It's like moving in beside an airport complaining about the planes and demanding the airport to close,”
A commission report into the project recommended it be rejected, finding the expansion would have adverse effects on two nearby horse studs as a result of dust and noise.
The 500 current employees at Drayton will be automatically employed at the new mine which is adjacent to the existing operation, however Anglo say all jobs are at risk if the expansion does not gain approval.
Last month Anglo penned an open letter to NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell on behalf of workers at its Drayton mine urging him to support the project.
Drayton mine general manager Clarence Robertson said the mine had been in operation for close to 30 years and Drayton South would offer employees at least another 27 years of work.
However a group of Hunter Valley tourist operators, wineries and horse studs have again called on the NSW state government to reject Anglo American’s expansion of Drayton South mine as a new panel of commission members now evaluate the project on behalf of Planning Minister Brad Hazzard.
They say if the mine goes ahead it will cost $457million to the NSW economy, will strip $120million annually from the local Hunter economy, and put 640 jobs at risk.
The project will eventually come within 500 metres of some of the region’s most prized horse studs including Coolmore and Darley.
Darley stud director Andrew Wiles has said if Drayton South was approved it would force the stud to consider closing its multimillion-dollar operations.
Robertson said Anglo had already responded to consultation with neighbours by changing its mine plan, investing more than $60 million on technical reports and giving up more than $5 billion worth of coal by moving the future mine behind natural ridgelines to minimise its visual impact.