Cobbora Coal Mine approved but hangs in limbo

The future of the Cobbora Coal Mine is still uncertain, despite
receiving approval from the Planning Assessment Commission (PAC).

Commission members Gabrielle Kibble AO, David Johnson and
Paul Forward reached their determination and issued the recommendation for
planning approval on May 9.

The commission noted that the state-owned proponent, Cobbora
Holding Company, has no intention of activating the approval.

NSW Government resolved to sell or lease the Cobbora project
last year, when then-treasurer and present premier Mike Baird said the mine
would cost more than $1.5 million to develop.

The PAC has also recognised that the $20 million transition
funding may not be enough to cover the impacts of delays to the development of
the mine on the local region.

The fund has been slated for sharing across four council
areas, however Warrumbungle Shire Council indicated Dunedoo would be the worst
affected and should garner the lion’s share of the fund.

The PAC said the fund would not adequately address the
immediate economic impact in the area, and recommended that a socio-economic
study should be conducted in the area.

The proposed site of the Coborra Coal Mine is only 22
kilometres from Dunedoo.

The PAC has also noted that among the effects of the mine
would be impacts on terrestrial flora and fauna listed under the Threatened Species Conservation Act and
the Environment Protection and
Biodiversity Conservation Act
, including groundwater dependant ecosystems.

There are also concerns that light from the mine would affect
research done at the Australian Astronomical Observatory near Coonabarabran,
which should be consulted for the development of a Light Management Plan.

Warrumbungle Shire Council general manager Steve Loane told the ABC that he was pleased with the recommendations, but that they should have
also dictated the way that local community and council could be represented.

“I just don’t know how strong the council can be as far
as insisting that council have a seat at the integrated land management or the
socio-economic planning stage, other than just to recommend very strongly that
there be consultation,” he said.

Although the future of the mine is uncertain, Loane has
pointed out that under VPA’s with the Wellington Council, repairs to the
Cobbora Road worth $4.8 million are supposed to start immediately after
approval.

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