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Horse studs doom Anglo’s Drayton mine

The NSW Planning Assessment Commission found the land use needs of the horse studs and the mine were not compatible. Photo: Ingram Publishing

500 jobs will go at Anglo American’s Drayton coal mine after the NSW Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) rejected a plan to expand the mine last week.

Anglo American’s Drayton mine will shut down in 2016, the miner announced, after the PAC recommended the Drayton South expansion project should not proceed, after finding the mine expansion would not be compatible with neighbouring horse studs.

“The two land uses are vastly different and are not compatible in close proximity,” the PAC said in its report. “Consequently the commission is dealing with a land use conflict between the two industries.”

Seamus French, chief executive of Anglo American Coal, called the decision “devastating”.

“This is the worst possible outcome for our works, for the Hunter Valley community and for New South Wales,” French said.

“Unemployment in the Hunter Valley is at 8% and to reject a project that would have continued to support this region for another 15 years, providing local people and their families with security, is incomprehensible.”

French accused the PAC of ignoring the detailed scientific assessments and peer-reviewed reports contained in the Drayton South Environmental Impact Statement, as well as NSW Government policy and the expert advice of 13 government agencies.

“This decision sends a terrible message about NSW as an investment destination,” he said.

“The expert advice of government agencies can be set aside on a whim.

“In this case, unfounded claims and threats from two horse studs have trumped the social and economic benefits of a considered, responsible project which has overwhelming community support.”

The miner says it has worked tirelessly to get the mine expansion through the planning process, spending over $70m in studies and fees.

French said the scope of the project had already been reduced by more than 25% during that process, to ensure all mining operations remained behind the second ridgeline nominated by the PAC at an earlier point in the proceedings.

“To provide our neighbours with additional certainty, we offered the NSW Government a binding agreement not to open cut mine in front of the designated second ridgeline,” he said.

“Only one side has been willing to compromise and we have worked within a planning system that has allowed all these concessions and scientific facts to be ignored.”

French said Anglo was now focused on the challenging process ahead for its workers, the mine’s 140 suppliers and the community. He said the miner would review the PAC’s final report in detail and carefully consider its closure plan for Drayton.

Meanwhile, Rio Tinto’s application to expand at its Mount Thorley Warkworth mine, which employs around 1300 workers and contractors, was approved by the PAC on November 26.

“The commission recognises that the project … provides for mining of a major resource and will have very significant direct and indirect economic and social benefits for the state and the Hunter region,” the PAC said in its Rio decision.

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