The NSW Minerals Council says discussions around the approval of Shenhua’s Watermark coal mine have been dominated by “outlandish exaggerations” by people who oppose the mine.
The $1.2 billion open-cut coal project, located near the Liverpool Plains, plans to produce 10 million tonnes of coal per annum for 30 years, and has come under intense scrutiny from some local farmers in the region who are concerned over water and agricultural impacts.
The backlash since the mine’s approval has been tense and unrelenting.
Some local farmers have vowed to resort to civil disobedience to stop the mine, while Federal Minister for Agriculture and local MP of the region where the mine will be built, Barnaby Joyce, labelled his own government’s approval of the project “ridiculous”.
However, the mineral council’s CEO Stephen Galilee says the discussion around the mine’s approval has been dominated by exaggerations and distortions.
“There has been virtually no regard for the facts, nor consideration of the huge economic benefits to the community, including hundreds of jobs, that this project will bring,” Galilee said.
“The Shenhua project will create 625 local jobs during the peak construction phase with 425 jobs during operation, in a region experiencing an unemployment rate of 7.5%.”
Galilee has sought to dispel numerous “myths” being circulated about the project.
“The fact is the Watermark mine will not be located on the blacksoil plains but in the ridge country adjacent to the plains. It will not be a 35 square kilometre pit with an actual working pit being no more than around 1.5 square kilometres at any one time 23 times smaller than claimed. The project will also be subject to rolling rehabilitation during the life of the project. The project will not be operated by foreign workers, but will provide hundreds of jobs for local people,” Galilee said.
Others have also come out in support of the project, including Gunnedah mayor Owen Hasler who said Watermark will boost the local economy.
"Potentially there's up to 600 people to be employed permanently at that mine and we would expect a number of those employees, as many as possible, would come out of our community," Hasler said.
"It also means we would potentially get a lot of people coming here to work and to live preferably.”