The Coalition has been dealt a blow for one of its key election platforms, with unpublicised mining licenses revealed on its planned national park in Sydney.
In January, the Coalition announced it would declare the Dharawal conservation area a national park if elected, to stop mining in the area.
However, it was later revealed that such declaration would not necessarily stop mining there.
The Coalition has been shocked by the revelations, which could cost tens of millions of dollars of taxpayer money for compensation before the park can be created, according to The Sydney Morning Herald.
“The Herald has obtained confidential advice from the Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water that shows BHP Billiton holds two active coal mining leases ‘which cover almost all of the Dharawal SCA’”, it said on its website today.
BHP has another exploration lease in the north of the area and Longreach Oil holds an exploration lease for geothermal energy, while coal seam gas (CSG) explorer Apex energy holds a petroleum exploration license.
AGL also has a petroleum exploration license but it says it excludes conservation areas.
The advice given to the Herald said if agreements cannot be made regarding compensation, legislation will be needed to reserve Dharawal as a national park.
”Special legislation to change the category of Dharawal SCA would be needed to extinguish existing mining leases and approved projects, or voluntary agreements would need to be reached with leaseholders to relinquish their interests,” it says.
”Compensation issues between government and industry would need to be resolved.”
Last night the opposition’s environment spokesman, Catherine Cusack said she was “dismayed that Labor have issued more licenses and is even considering a renewal of existing leases.
”This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to protect a fragile area that meets the highest criteria of conservation values.”
BHP’s application fees to renew its leases have been paid to the Department of Industry and Investment.
One expired last September and the next will expire in September this year.
“The advice notes that ‘a lease is deemed to continue to have effect after expiry if an application has been made and fees paid until the application is dealt with’."
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