The NSW Department of Planning has been accused of being “hopelessly biased” towards the mining industry in a public hearing on the expansion of the Bulga coal mine.
Glencore’s proposal for the Bulga Optimisation Project would extend the mine life by 11 years, up to 2035, with permission to extract 12.2 million tonnes per year.
Over 100 submissions have been made against the expansion, including objections from Lock the Gate, local residents and Wonnarua traditional custodians.
Lock the Gate Alliance spokesman Steve Phillips said the Department of Planning was unquestioning in its acceptance economic figures declared by mining companies and lobby groups, referring to the same criticisms made by the Planning and Assessment Commission (PAC).
“The department is supposed to be an independent arbiter, critically assessing the mining companies’ proposals, along with the submissions it receives from experts and residents,” Phillips said.
“In reality the department is an arm of the mining lobby, invariably accepting without question all the information it receives from mining companies, and neglecting, rejecting or just plain ignoring submissions from everyone else.”
Bulga resident John Krey raised the issue of air quality, and the difficulty of determining responsibility among companies for rectifying the problem.
“No one disputes that we have a lot of dust from the mines, and it does affect our health. But because of this massive number of open-cut mines, no one mine will take responsibility,” Krey said.
The Wonnuaru Traditional Custodians native Title Claimant group declared that the expansion would result in the destruction of conservation areas set aside under Aboriginal cultural heritage management plans, which includes two significant grinding groove sites.
This has been backed up by the Department of Planning and Environment (DPE), which said the impact on aboriginal sites would be unavoidable if the expansion goes ahead.
In the DPEs recommendation for approval of the project, it has been stipulated that the Loders Creek grinding grooves are to be relocated to another site nearby, in consultation with Aboriginal stakeholders.