The New South Wales Government will scale back the exploration licence granted to China’s Shenhua Watermark Coal to protect agriculture in the Liverpool Plains.
Minister for resources Don Harwin said the agreement will see 51.4 per cent of Shenhua’s exploration licence returned, with the government to refund around $262 million of what the Chinese company originally paid.
This section of the licence encroaches on the flat fertile agriculture land of the plains. Exploration activities were expected to significantly impact farming activities in the area.
“While the previous Labor government granted the original exploration licence, this government has determined there should be no mining on the fertile black soils of the Liverpool Plains,” Harwin said.
“In August 2016 the NSW Government also secured an agreement to buy back the licence for BHP’s Caroona project, another exploration licence issued by the previous Labor Government on the Liverpool Plains.
“Any future mining activity will now be restricted to the ridge lands, with a commencement still subject to further management plans and the ongoing monitoring of strict conditions already in place.”
Minister for primary industries and regional water Niall Blair said future mining operations must abide by strict water management conditions.
“Shenhua’s proposed activities on the ridge country have been exhaustively assessed and considered under the NSW aquifer interference policy, and will be subject to continual monitoring,” Blair said.
“Today’s agreement unlocks prime agricultural land for farming, helping to maintain the region’s reputation as one of the great food bowls of Australia.”
According to the NSW Government, Shenhua must comply with around 100 of the “strictest conditions in Australian history”, especially around water, and has had four expert reviews and two further reviews by the Independent Expert Scientific Committee.
The company must also receive approval for detailed management plans in several key areas, including water management, biodiversity and environmental management before mining can commence.
Member for Tamworth Kevin Anderson believes the agreement strikes the right balance between preserving agriculture on the Liverpool Plains, while also creating up to 600 new jobs and millions of dollars in investment for the region.
“Farming and mining have long been the backbone of this region’s economy,” Anderson said.