Coal mining has been a hot topic in State Government recently, with a couple of new announcements being delivered by John Barilaro's office.
The Deputy Premier and Minister responsible for Resources has been talking about the future of coal mining in regional NSW in relation to employment and economics.
One of the announcements on Wednesday, June 24 was centered around the release of the NSW Government's Future of Coal statement speaking to the certainty and clarity about the future of an industry that many regional communities rely on.
It's a policy framework for coal exploration and mining in NSW that supports investment certainty as the coal mining sector responds to global demand, while helping regional communities manage the effects of an expected decline in thermal coal mining in the State over the longer term.
The Strategic Statement on Coal Exploration and Mining in NSW focuses on four key points: improving certainty about where coal mining should not occur; supporting responsible coal production; reducing the impact of coal mining; and supporting diversification of coal-reliant regional economies to assist with the phase-out of thermal coal mining.
What does that mean for Gloucester?
On the NSW Government's coal mining map, it indicates that there can be "no proactive releases for coal exploration" and that "new coal exploration can only occur adjacent to an existing title" in the Gloucester basin.
The area where the Rocky Hill Coal Mine was proposed is marked as "prohibited by State Environment Planning Policy."
According to Member for Upper Hunter Michael Johnsen, while the State Government is acknowledging the widely publicised rejection of the highly controversial open cut mine by labeling the area as "banned" for coal mining, he has indicated that an underground mine application would be entertained.
Also announced on the same day was an alteration to the Resources for Regions program with $50 million worth of new infrastructure projects and community programs up for grabs.
Mr Barilaro said the revised funding program will provide 24 Local Government Areas with a base amount of $1 million, with a further $26 million weighted to the most mining-affected communities, however, MidCoast Council isn't on the list.
According to Mr Johnsen, the Stratford Coal mine isn't big enough to fall into the funding category, unlike neighbouring councils Cessnock, Lake Macquarie, Maitland, Muswellbrook, Newcastle, Singleton and Upper Hunter.
Groundswell Gloucester, the community group that fought against the Rocky Hill mine application, is still reeling from the recent discovery that Gloucester Resources Limited (GRL), the company behind the application, has sought to renew its exploration licences, which came up for renewal in recent months.
Groundswell chairwoman, Julie Lyford said the group has tried to find out why GRL would reapply for the exploration licences and what it could mean for the future of Gloucester, by sending a letter to the NSW Government objecting to the applications.
Ms Lyford said it was concerning that GRL would continue to show interest in the area, especially after the NSW Land and Environment Court's landmark rejection of the Rocky Hill Coal Mine last February.
"We are deeply disappointed that GRL continues to create widespread anxiety in the Gloucester community," Ms Lyford said.
"I'd like to feel positive that the State government, after more than 15 years of the community fighting coal in the valley, would see it's really unacceptable for these licences to be renewed."
A 6767-signature petition calling for the NSW Government to cancel GRL's licences to protect the community of Gloucester has was tabled in State parliament by Port Stephens MP, Kate Washington on Wednesday, April 29.
For more information about the Future of Coal statement, visit www.resourcesandgeoscience.nsw.gov.au/future-of-coal.
For further information about the Resources for Regions funding, go to www.nsw.gov.au/resourcesforregions.