Communities ‘scapegoats’ for mining companies

Mining companies have copped criticism for making the Hunter communities ‘convenient scapegoats’ for job cuts in the coal sector.

Accusations job losses are due to approval delays have been labelled as ‘rubbish’, and make communities the scapegoats for a weak market.

Different associations and mining companies have blamed each other for job losses in the coal sector.

Bulga Progress Association spokesman John Krey said the problem lied in weak coal prices.

“They are trying to get us to wear the blame,” Krey said.

But Anglo American and Rio Tinto chief executives have pointed fingers at Bulga for successful legal bids against the Mount Thorley Warkworth extension and faults in the planning system for threatening their operations, the Newcastle Herald reported.

Rio warned it could start cutting jobs this year unless the Mount Thorley Warkworth project proceeds.

The NSW state government recently supported Rio Tinto in its appeal to override a decision to forbid expanding Warkworth coal project in the Hunter Valley.

The company was granted approval in 2012 to mine bushland next to the town that had been set aside as an 'offset' 10 years ago. It was to bring 150 mining jobs, and extract 18 million tonnes of coal a year.

It cut 40 jobs and warned it would review the feasibility of the mine after the decision was made to override the expansion.

The government has until the end of 2013 to approve Anglo American’s Drayton South project. Otherwise the company will stop production.

Hunter Valley Protection Alliance chairman Stewart Ewen said mining companies were engaging in scaremongering.

“We see a downturn in the industry across the board,” Ewen said.

Meanwhile the Hunter Thoroughbred Breeders Association said the equine industry was also being made a scapegoat for mining leaders.

“Proper assessments of projects are critical. The coal industry is blatantly wrong,” President Cameron Collins said.

The NSW Minerals Council blames the state’s planning system, saying it was weakening investor confidence, projects and jobs.

The Nature Conservation Council said legal challenges from communities and individuals had not prevented development.

The council’s Pepe Clare said eliminating legal aid for environmental cases violated individuals’ rights. Environmental groups argued some of the legal cases would not have gone ahead without legal aid.

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