Ashton coal mine to extend for seven years, dairies lose out

 The NSW Land and Environment Court has found in favour of the Ashton South East Open Cut (SEOC) coal mine expansion.

The appeal made by members of the local Hunter Valley community of Camberwell against the expansion was beaten yesterday despite advice from the Department of Health and the NSW office of Water that was made to the Department of Planning and Environment against approval of the expansion.

Economic analysis also showed that expansion by Yacoal will result in a net job loss in the local community.

Around 60 per cent of the SEOC coal asset lies beneath land owned by 80 year-old dairy farmer Wendy Bowman, who said she will continue to refuse to sell to Yancoal.

“The decision of the court that the mine can go ahead despite strong evidence that it is not in the public interest, and will damage our farmland, water security and air quality, makes me question who the laws are really serving. I am sad to say, the system is broken,” Ms Bowman said.

“My family has been in this valley for 6 generations. I have already had to move twice for mines, but this time I will stay and defend my land, our water and local heritage.”

The Ashton expansion will extend the life of the mine by seven years, and produce 16.5 million tonnes of coking coal.

Dairy farming in the area was argued to be under threat, due to staff retention issues and the reluctance of dairy farm managers to work so close to a coal mine.

NSW Minerals Council CEO Stephen Galilee said the project would create up to 160 new jobs, as well as new work for the many contractors required to help start the development. 

“These jobs are much-needed at a time when thousands of local jobs have been lost in the region over the last two years,” he said.

“The potential economic stimulus generated by these jobs will also provide a welcome boost to the region’s economy.” 

Justice Nicola Pain’s decision was conditional on outstanding matters involving the Bowman dairy farm, which will be discussed by representatives of Yancoal and the Bowman family on Friday.


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