Anglo American proposes compromise for Drayton South operation

Anglo American has proposed further compromises to plans for expansion of the Drayton South project, following yesterday’s launch of a new anti-Hunter coal PR campaign.

The campaign was privately funded by the Thoroughbred Breeders Association, which claims that coal mining threatens horse breeding and other agricultural industries in the Hunter Valley.

Anglo American released a statement on Wednesday afternoon, which said that revised plans for the mine are smaller than the original proposal to minimise visual impact on nearby horse studs.

The compromise has been intended to ensure the ongoing life of the mine in co-existance with other industries, as the existing Drayton mine is predicted to run out of coal in 2017.

Anglo American has claimed that the Planning Assessment Committee (PAC), which rejected proposals for the mine extension in December, has disregarded the terms of reference and ignored the project’s environmental assessment reports on how impacts would be minimised.

Anglo American’s Drayton South Project director Rick Fairhurst said the revised mine plan was a positive step forward for the project, and for the 500 employees and 140 local businesses that depend on continued work at Drayton.

“When we presented to the PAC last October, we strongly believed we had already made the right changes to the mine plan to allow us to continue to work alongside other industries and our thoroughbred horse breeding neighbours,” he said.

“However, in light of the PAC report on the project and our commitment to coexistence, we have agreed to make even further changes to the mine plan.

“This is on top of the $6 billion worth of compromises we had agreed to previously, based on stakeholder feedback.

 “Our priority is to secure project approval as soon as possible. Drayton South is vital for the economic prosperity of the Hunter Valley and means hundreds of direct jobs for local people as well as flow on benefits to local suppliers,” Fairhurst said.

The Drayton South project will extend the life of the existing Drayton mine which has been a part of the Muswellbrook community for more than 30 years.

NSW Minerals Council chief executive Stephen Galilee joined the fray with an opinion piece in the Newcastle Herald this morning, rebuking editorial comment for describing a perceived government bias for approving mine expansions and describing the situation as “a joke”.

Galilee mounted an impassioned argument for the community members in the Hunter Valley, at the Drayton mine and also the Mount Thorley-Warkworth mine, who depend on the coal mining industry to support their families.

“Consider the situation facing 500 Hunter miners at Drayton. The project has been there for decades,” Galilee wrote.

“Similarly, consider the plight of the 1300 Hunter miners of Mount Thorley Warkworth.

“They and their families also face an uncertain future thanks to a planning system in which a 30-year-old mine seeking to extend its operations goes through a three-year assessment, and receives all state and federal approvals, only to have those approvals overturned a year later by the views of a single judge.

“The reality is that people working at these projects are part of their local communities too.

“There are thousands of Hunter families living in towns such as Singleton, Muswellbrook, Cessnock and Maitland who rely on a strong mining industry for their livelihood.”

On Wednesday Galilee pointed out that the Drayton mine has operated for decades, that the Drayton South project would be built on land owned by the mine, and stressed the importance that a compromise with other landholders be reached.

“Instead of working together to protect jobs in all industries, a decision seems to have been taken to adopt an 'all or nothing approach' to shut mining down in the Hunter,” Galilee said in reference to the position taken by members of the Thoroughbred Breeders Association .

“This ignores the history of the Hunter, and the reality of the Hunter economy where 12,000 mining workers live,” he said.

“Thoroughbred breeding and mining have much in common. Both provide important jobs for local people.

“Both have some level of foreign ownership, and both have impacts that can be controversial, whether it be the social impacts of gambling or the environmental impacts of mining.”

To keep up to date with Australian Mining, subscribe to our free email newsletters delivered straight to your inbox. Click here.