​New poll shows support for Rio Tinto coal mine expansion

A new poll has shown support for the expansion of Rio Tinto’s Mt Thorley Warkworth coal mine.

The miner, through its subsidiary Coal & Allied carried out a ReachTel survey of more than 2000 residents across Singleton, Maitland, Cessnock and Muswellbrook to gauge their support on the mining industry.

It comes on the back of the miner’s attempts to expand operations at its Mt Thorley Warkworth coal mine, and push its mine life to around 2035.

It had previously received consent for the expansion, however in April the Supreme Court sided with the Land and Environment Court and ruled that Rio Tinto was not allowed to go ahead with its expansion of the Mt Thorley Warkworth mine.

Planning consent for the expansion was given by the New South Wales government, but was then overturned in April 2013 by the Land and Environment Court because the mine would create unacceptable noise and dust problems for nearby residents in Bulga.

Both Rio Tinto and the NSW government filed a joint appeal in the Supreme Court just weeks later.

Current planning approvals mean the mine can only sustain existing production and employment levels until the end of 2015.

“Beyond this point, the width of the main pit at the mine will be cut significantly, leading to a drop in production and affecting its economic viability,” Rio Tinto Coal Australia managing director Chris Salisbury said.

He went on to say that jobs in the region are at risk if the mine were not to expand.

The survey, which gauged support for the industry and the expansion, found that majority supported the local mining industry, with 59 per cent ‘strongly supporting’ the industry while 14 per cent ‘support’ the industry. Approximately 12 per cent opposed the local mining industry.

Importantly, 70 per cent of those surveyed labelled the coal mining industry as ‘very important’ to the region’s prosperity.

Regarding the proposed expansion’s approval, 58 per cent of those surveyed believed it would have a negative impact on the local economy if it were rejected, while 25 believed it would have a positive impact for the region if the expansion was rejected, whilst 17 per cent believed it would have no impact whatsoever on the local economy.

Salisbury said “this research shows it’s not just the 1300 hundred workers at Mount Thorley Warkworth who support this mine having a strong future.

“These results clearly demonstrate that the local community supports this mine, with the jobs and economic benefits it provides.

“People living in the region believe there will be real impacts for the Hunter Valley unless government approvals are granted so Mount Thorley Warkworth can continue providing jobs and creating work for other businesses.

“Last year the mine spent more than $180 million with local businesses across the four Local Government Areas where the poll was undertaken.”

He went on to say “our existing approvals will only allow Mount Thorley Warkworth to maintain current production and employment levels until the end of 2015”.

“We need urgent approval to secure a long term future for this mine, its workers, and the community.” 

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