In the wake of final approvals of the Warkworth coal mine expansion, Bulga village residents have pledged to use civil disobedience to continue the fight against the mine.
“This could be the beginning of the end for Bulga but we are committed to using civil disobedience, if necessary, to frustrate this expansion, both for Rio Tinto and any future buyer of the mine,” Bulga Milbrodale Progress Association (BMPA) president John Krey said this morning.
“This is a black day for the Baird government, which has worked steadfastly to secure the expansion for Rio Tinto, sidestepping our two court wins and amending the law to push the project through.
“This approval is laying the ground for ongoing conflict in the Hunter region. People understand the system is stacked against us and we are forced to consider the next option: non-violent direct action.”
Krey said the Bulga community refused to accept the approvals outcome, and that the BMPA would work with the 3000 signatories to the Bulga Declaration and other supporters around NSW to stop work from commencing on the expansion.
Earlier this month the Planning and Assessment Commission recommended approval of the Warkworth expansion, subject to a range of strengthened conditions.
Conditions include an $11 million contribution to the Singleton community for enhancement projects focussing on the Bulga village, 2900 hectares of biodiversity offset land, and establishment of 1600 acres of woodland on site upon completion of mining.
Rio Tinto will also be expected to lodge a bond of $1 million to ensure successful regeneration of the Warkworth Sands Woodlands.
A spokesperson for the PAC said: “The Department’s assessment found that through the implementation of strict conditions the impacts of the project can be effectively managed, including in Bulga village.”
“The Department also concluded that the project would result in a range of broad economic benefits for the region, including ongoing employment for the 1,300 people that work at the mine.”
Rio Tinto’s plans for the Warkwarth mine expansion were originally rejected by both the Land and Environment Court and the NSW Supreme Court of Appeal, however resubmitted plans were later approved due to regulatory changes which made economic benefit the principal consideration of assessment.
A proposal to remove provisions about significance of resource was made in July this year by the NSW Planning Minister, instead focussing on factors such as relevant social, environmental and economic impacts, which was approved on 31 August.
In July Rio Tinto Coal Australia managing director Chris Salisbury issued a statement stating their position that Mount Thorley Warkworth would bring significant benefits to NSW and other communities in the Hunter Valley.
“Rigorous independent economic analysis has shown Mount Thorley Warkworth will deliver $1.5 billion to the NSW economy in the form of wages, royalties and taxes over coming decades, if mining is allowed to continue,” he said.
“An approval will allow this mine to continue providing jobs for 1300 people and spending hundreds of millions of dollars each year with other businesses across NSW.”
Throughout the process the Warkworth expansion has faced active opposition from residents of the nearby Bulga Village, as well as horse breeders, wine growers and farmers in the Hunter Valley.