Vastly differing mining compensations have seen Hunter Valley councils effectively miss out on funding.
Following the Muswellbrook council securing at least $12 million in compensation commitments from coal mines in its region, the NSW Minerals Council has labelled the contribution system a mess, according to the Newcastle Herald.
The Muswellbrook council has negotiated with BHP Billiton’s Mt Arthur coal mine, Coal & Allied’s Mt Pleasant and Bengalla coal mines to receive $1.4 million annually for community infrastructure as well as nearly half a million for roads for the life of the mines under voluntary planning agreements (VAP).
This is based on agreements where the community receives approximately six cents for every tonne of coal mined.
However, nearby Singleton received $56 700 from three mines for roadworks, and a once off payment of less than $400 000 for community projects.
According to the Herald, no other council managed to negotiate a cents per tonne figure from the coal mines.
Speaking to the NSW Minerals Council’s acting CEO Sue-Ern Tan, she told Australian Mining that miners “contribute to regional communities directly through land taxes and developer contributions set as conditions of approvals under the Environment Planning and Assessment Act 1979, such as Voluntary Planning Agreements.
She stated that there is an over-reliance on VPAs and that the parameters for negotiating them are vague, which has lead to situations such as the one in the Hunter.
“The current system is a mess,” she told Australian Mining.
“However, the industry’s contributions cannot and must not be regarded as a substitute for Government provision of regional facilities and services in regional NSW.
“There is a widespread perception that Government funding is failing to meet community infrastructure and services needs as mining contributions to Government appear not to be coming back to mining regions.
Tan went on to say that there needs to be a ‘royalties for regions’ style of long term funding for infrastructure and services in mining regions.