The NSW Department of Planning and Infrastructure has given its support to the controversial Wallarah 2 coal mine.
The Department yesterday handed down its preliminary assessment ahead of the Planning Assessment Commission and public submissions.
It has supported the mine’s approval, stating that there is no reason to stop it on environmental grounds.
Planning and Infrastructure executive director Chris Wilson said “the Department’s comprehensive assessment of the project, support by independent studies, was that there were no environmental or amenity reasons that prevent the project proceeding subject to strict conditions, particularly around the protection of the area’s water resources”.
This news has angered environmental groups, who have called on NSW premier Barry O’Farrell to halt the mine, according to the ABC.
This follows on from the former member for the region, the now disgraced Craig Thomson, putting forward a bill to O’Farrell to stop the mine’s development.
Nature Conservation Council head Pepe Clarke declared that O’Farrell can not back down on his promise.
"Mr. O'Farrell needs to make good," Clarke said.
"He needs to intervene in this process by introducing clear legally binding protections for drinking water catchments across New South Wales.
"He has an opportunity to do that before the Planning Assessment Commission makes its final consideration of this mine, and should do so to honour his promise for the people of the Central Coast."
However, O’Farrell has previously stated that “what we said is we wouldn't allow water catchments to be threatened and we don't intend to have any water catchments threatened”.
Speaking to Australian Mining, Wallarah’s general manager Kerry Heywood explained that concerns over water have been misplaced.
"Public concern has been on our effect on the water catchment, but the project and planning commission said in its report that there will be a minimal impact to the region's water, but opponents to the mine keep saying it will have a devastating impact.
"This isn't the case – we don't operate under water, our operations are only under a very small area of the catchment and won't have a serious impact on the water supply.”
The Department of Planning and Infrastructure’s Chris Wilson added that “managing the impact of resource projects on our water resources is a key priority. After careful consideration of all potential environmental, social, and economic impacts the Department is satisfied that the economic benefits of the mine can be realised without significant adverse impacts”.
“The Department has found the company [Wallarah 2 Coal] has comprehensively addressed those factors which underpinned the refusal of a separate application in 2011.”
After a range of conditions were taken into account when finalising the assessment, Wilson stated that the mine will have a positive effect.
“The Wallarah 2 project would generate a significant number of employment opportunities in the local region, including 300 direct jobs and an estimated 500 flow on jobs in related industries.
“It would also have direct economic benefits to the State, including an estimated $134 million in taxes and $207 million in mining royalties.”