MidCoast "does not support the proposed Rocky Hill Coal Mine”

My Concerns: John Turner expresses his concerns about the proposed Rocky Hill Coal Mine Project.
My Concerns: John Turner expresses his concerns about the proposed Rocky Hill Coal Mine Project.

“This mine is simply in the wrong place,” MidCoast Council administrator, John Turner said during his address at the extraordinary meeting held at the Gloucester Chambers today (October 12).

There were only two matters on the agenda; Rocky Hill Coal Mine Proposal and Stratford Extension Project.

The 126 page council papers held only a report to council outlining their position in relation to the two Development Consents (DA), highlighting in detail, council’s concerns about the project and areas of the amended Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that have not been clearly addressed.

“Council does not support the proposed Rocky Hill Coal Mine” was stated as the overall recommendation in the submission to the NSW Department of Planning and Environment (DPE).

Administrator, John Turner, approved the submission as is, to be forward to the DPE; but not without adding in his own comments on the project.

He told the crowd of around 60, how he grew up near a mine and remembers the sound to the machines drilling under his home.

“I know what proximity means,"

He explained that he’s not “anti-coal mine”, as he feels the industry is vital to the economy and if this mine was in a different location, he may support an application.

“It’s simply too close to residential areas,” Mr Turner said.

After he outlined his “objective concerns”, he told the crowd he will be adding his comments to the submission.

The crowd responded with applause.

The key issues addressed in the report were:

  • social and economic impact
  • traffic and transport
  • air quality
  • noise, vibration and blasting
  • water resources

Among the reasons given by council for their lack of support, high on the list is the fact that the former Gloucester Shire Council was opposed to the development and that the proposal is contrary to the Gloucester Shire Council Mining and Extractive Industries Policy. 

The submission indicates that the EIS doesn’t adequately address the following issues; air quality, noise, cost benefit analysis and terrestrial biodiversity assessment.

Council also feels that the $400,000 annual contribution from Gloucester Resources Limited (GRL) to the community through the Community Grants Program “may be inadequate given the high social environmental risk to the community’.

The report talks about how mining “accidents do happen”, giving the example of a 2014 “blast at BHP Billiton’s Mount Arthur Coal Mine, which generated a toxic orange plume.” 

“It drifted over an industrial estate at Muswellbrook with workers complaining of sore throats,” the report states.

The plume was found to have been caused by “water in the blast holes and inadequate measuring of wind direction.”

“It is not in the public’s interest to approve a coal mine in this location that is, without a reasonable buffer area of residential exclusion. There is little margin for error if something goes wrong.”

It also gives examples of sediment dam failure at three mines in the Hunter Valley (Warkworth, Wambo and Bengalla) during heavy rain in January 2016, indicating the control measure Rocky Hill has proposed, may fail.

Another major concern council has is about the lack of state rules around buffer zones for residential areas near coal mines.

Project Manager for MidCoast Council, Wayne Burgess said that council wants the state to investigate this matter and outline what a buffer area should be.

The public submissions for the Rocky Hill Coal Mine Project close on Friday, October 14.