The Rio Tinto proposed Mount Thorley-Warkworth continuation project has drawn widespread support from the local business community, fearful that the loss of around 1300 jobs will have a devastating impact on the local economy.
On December 18 last year representatives of the Hunter Business Chamber were joined by CFMEU district president Peter Jordan at a Planning and Assessment Commission (PAC) hearing to rally support for the venture, which will provide ongoing employment for local workers and require the services and supplies of potentially hundreds of local businesses.
One among 80 speakers at the PAC hearing, Jordan emphasised the need preserve jobs in the Hunter Valley after thousands in local industry had already been lost over the past year.
“The Hunter Region desperately needs this economic boost because in the last two years, it's our understanding, that we've seen almost 2,000 coal miners in the Hunter lose their jobs,” Jordan told ABC.
“In 18 months, unemployment in the region has risen from 5.8 per cent to 8.4 per cent.
“The region just cannot afford to lose this mine.”
Current planning approvals mean the mine can only sustain existing production and employment levels until the end of 2015.
The mine continuation project was approved by the NSW Planning Department in November last year.
Hunter Business Chamber representative Kristen Keegan, whose family have been involved in local coal mining for more than 100 years, told the hearing that the debate over the mine was about people.
“It is in everyone’s best interests that the Hunter has a stronger and more diverse economy and community into the future,” she said.
“We should never forget that many of the privileges our society enjoys are a direct result of a strong mining industry.”
The mine is expected to provide a net financial benefit of $1.34 billion to the NSW economy.
Final recommendations from the PAC on the Mount Thorley-Warkworth continuation will be delivered by late February.