Lobby group wants community meeting about Camberwell mine

A lobby group in the Hunter Valley believes a public hearing should be held to deal with the controversial proposal for an open cut mine south of Camberwell.

Ashton Coal’s application for the mine is expected to be referred to the independent Planning Assessment Commission this week.

Meanwhile, the operator of Ashton Coal, Yancoal, has blamed the government for stalling the decision on the mine, resulting in 18 workers being sacked and 90 more facing possible retrenchment within weeks.

Hunter Environment Lobby member Bev Smiles told The Newcastle Herald the community is concerned with potential impacts on water systems and the amount of dust from the mine.

She believes the commission should hold a hearing so the community could get information and voice their opinions, similarly to other controversial projects.

Smiles said it was unlikely the workers would struggle to find other employment given the labour shortage in the mining industry.

Yesterday it was revealed a traditional Aboriginal group in the New South Wales Hunter Valley have begun legal action against Ashton Coal for allegedly damaging a significant site.

The mine near Camberwell has resulted in some complicated debates within local indigenous groups, who engaged in a slinging match about who has the right to comment on the issue.

The Wonnarua Nation aboriginal corporation told the ABC in April a group of protesters calling themselves the “Plains Clans of the Wonnarua People” are not representative of the Indigenous community in the region.

But in May, one of the men at the centre of Perry’s comments told Australian Mining it is Perry who should not be commenting on the issue, because he is not a true Wonnorua person.

In a statement that dealt individually with each point in the original ABC article, Franks and the other person he says who is entitled to comment, Robert Lester, said just because their group against the coal mine is smaller than the majority who are in favour of the mine, it does not mean they should not be heard.

“Whether the Plans Clans of the Wonnorua People are a minority or a majority, is irrelevant, under the requirements of the Commonwealth Native Title Act 1993 and the NSW Native Title Act,” they said.

“Most people are not aware, that amendment’s to the National Native Title Tribunal (NNTT) guidelines for assessing native title applications, has been made so applicants must now demonstrate a direct connection, to the area their claim is made over.”

The Coalition allowed the project , as well as other existing applications to continue being assessed under Labor’s part 3A major project laws but it said the commission would make the decision rather than the Planning Minister.

The company lodged an environmental assessment in late 2009, and earlier this year revised the project.

The latest documents reveal Ashton has amended the projects proximity to residents in response to the community concern.

"The closest part of the open-cut pit will now be 900 metres from the nearest privately owned Camberwell village residence and at least one kilometre from all other privately owned Camberwell village residences," they read.

"This additional setback will sterilise about 500,000 tonnes of . . . coal, but is considered necessary to reduce potential health and amenity impacts on Camberwell village residences."

Image: Camberwell town centre; Path Finder

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