Mine planning changes in NSW

NSW state government will today reveal a draft planning amendment to remove a rule which stipulates the economic benefits of a proposed coal mine must be the principal consideration when assessing for approval.

Introduced only two years ago, the State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP) change was criticised for shifting the balance of planning assessments in favour of the mining industry over environmental and social factors.

With the future of the Mount Thorley-Warkworth expansion so close to final approval, the new proposal has been met with resistance from the mining industry.

NSW Minerals Council CEO Stephen Galilee said the move was “a retrograde step that will hurt NSW”.

“It will put at risk thousands of current and potential jobs, particularly in regional mining communities where unemployment is often well above the state average,” Galilee said.

"Getting the balance right is important, but you can't have viable communities and a clean environment without a strong economy.

“At the end of last year the Premier committed to halving project assessment time frames to improve investor confidence and support jobs.

“This proposal does the exact opposite, relegating the industry to uncertainty and putting thousands of jobs in jeopardy.”

Galilee said that any changes to the legislation should not be retrospective in order to prevent impacts on “projects close to completing the assessment process”.

Bulga Milbrodale Progress Association vice president John Kray, who has been opposing the Warkworth coal expansion, said the community would welcome the new change.

"We would hope that the policy would get back to a balance between those three competing elements and back to a level playing field," he said.

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