Mine employees keen to expand

EMPLOYEES at Yancoal’s Stratford coal mine have pleaded with the State government to keep the mine open and retain their jobs.

Dozens of employees at the mine attended last Wednesday’s PAC (Planning Assessment Commission) hearing into the proposed expansion of the mine with some choosing to speak at the meeting.

Anthony Fleming said the mine was the most environmentally conscious he had worked at.

He said the flow-on affects to the Gloucester community if the mine expansion was not granted would be keenly felt.

“This is a beautiful area. Tourists haven’t stopped coming since the mine was built,” he said.

“The timber and dairy industries are either closed or in decline. This would be a very different area without a mine continuing to operate.”

John Bowen, the manager of mining and engineering at Stratford, said his company Ditchfield Contracting, a Forster-based business, had benefited enormously from the mine as had the people of Gloucester.

“Sixty per cent of people that work in the Stratford mine live in the Gloucester district,” he said.

“In our seven-year affiliation with the mine we’ve paid more than $38 million in wages.

“Our workers regularly patronise local motels and we frequently engage local service clubs to assist at mine functions.”

Joel Wolfenden, whose family comes from Craven, said his experience of the mine both living near it and now working at it had only been positive.

“The expansion provides continued job security, both to those employed directly and indirectly,” he said.

“In the 18 years since the mine opened virtually all the misgivings about it have proved to be unfounded. Gloucester is still a good community and my family is still in good health.

“My family lived on a farm bordering the mine and sometimes you’d forget it was there. There would be more noise from the Bucketts Way.”

After finishing school, Mr Wolfenden completed a traineeship with Ditchfield which had led to full-time employment at the mine.

“It’s only through my work that I’ve developed an appreciation for how much work is actually done to minimise the mining impact on the community,” he said.

“Everything from the design of the pit, the machinery selected for the job to how we blast and our water management practices where not one drop is permitted to leave the mine site.

“I take a lot of pride in my work and our environmental obligations I take seriously. This is my home too.”

Yancoal has applied to extend the life of the Stratford mine for another 11 years.

It says the project would increase the current workforce from 74 to about 250.

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