Council ‘disillusioned’ over mine assessment process

MAYOR John Rosenbaum and council’s general manager Danny Green have both criticised the Department of Planning and Infrastructure over its assessment process for the expansion of Yancoal’s Stratford mine. 

Mr Green said he was “disillusioned” with the department after recommendations made by council in its response to Yancoal’s expansion plans were ignored.

Cr Rosenbaum has written to the department as well as the Premier, State Resources and Energy Minister Anthony Roberts and Upper Hunter MP George Souris voicing council’s disappointment.

The department released the draft conditions of consent for the mine extension late last year and the NSW Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) will hear submissions on the draft at a meeting in Gloucester next month. 

Mr Green said council and its working committee had put 12 months work and resources into the response to Yancoal’s proposal.

“We followed the process thinking we’d be heard,” he said.

“The final draft approved by the department is almost a reflection of the Yancoal submission. That’s what you have to wonder about.”

Mr Green was also disheartened by Yancoal’s lack of willingness to negotiate with council over the expansion plan.

“Our three main objections were the 24-hour operations, the void that would be left and its proximity to the community of Stratford,” Mr Green said.

“It was made clear to us by Yancoal that without those conditions being met, the project wouldn’t go ahead.

“But we were willing and tried to negotiate. Unfortunately, Yancoal didn’t move an inch. We are a planning authority in our own right. When a development proposal is submitted to us, we sit down and we work through the issues and hope we can reach a balanced outcome.”

Cr Rosenbaum said what council had presented to the department reflected the community desires, needs and expectations for the expansion of Stratford mine.

“Yancoal is pulling a resource out of the ground which is only there until it runs out,” he said.

“There has to be some of the value of that resource that the community is entitled to.

“You have to consider that the land these mines are on is a valuable asset in terms of land development potential.

“We have virtually lost that asset. It is highly unlikely that any future development will be able to take place on that land. It really does restrict the area where development can take place.”

Council will host a public meeting at the Stratford hall on February 4 from 6.30pm to discuss the community’s views on the draft conditions for the mine. 

Mr Green said council would continue to represent the community to the best of its ability on future mining proposals.

“We will continue to stand up and fight for the community as it expresses what it wants,” he said.  

Both Mr Green and Cr Rosenbaum said they believed the State government needed to do more to support communities where mining was present.

“The government should be financing us to look at these proposals. One of the items in our submission was a contribution from Yancoal towards an environmental subsidy to examine similar issues in the future,” Mr Green said.

Council's general manager Danny Green.

Council's general manager Danny Green.