China’s Shenhua has vowed to continue with its plans for the Watermark coal mine in New South Wales despite the state government reducing the size of its exploration licence by more than half.
The NSW Government yesterday announced it was scaling back the licence granted to Shenhua to protect the agriculture industry in the Liverpool Plains.
Shenhua will lose 51.4 per cent of the exploration licence, but be refunded $262 million by the state government.
This section of the licence encroaches on the flat fertile agriculture land of the plains, according to the NSW Government.
Shenhua Australia chairman Liu Xiang said the company would continue to progress its Watermark coal mine plans on the remainder of the licence in line with the 2015 approvals from both the state and federal governments.
“The Watermark coal mine has been subject to unprecedented scrutiny which has demonstrated the project can be developed in an environmentally-sustainable manner,” Xiang said.
“We will continue to co-operate with the NSW Government in respect of progressing the project and ensuring it meets the highest environmental standards.”
The NSW Minerals Council supported the state government’s decision, saying it was a good outcome for the New England region.
“It will secure hundreds of jobs, particularly around Gunnedah, and provide a genuine economic boost to the whole region,” the Council said in a statement.
“The agreement will lock in around 600 new local jobs and ongoing economic growth for the region, as well as royalties that from will help fund services like schools, hospitals and roads.”
NSW Farmers Association also welcomed the state government’s partial buy back of the exploration licence and was hopeful it signalled the end of proposed mining on the Liverpool Plains.
Derek Schoen, NSW Farmers president, described the announcement as a “step in the right direction’ for agriculture in the region.
“The Association has been battling to protect the Liverpool Plains for over a decade. It is one of our heartland issues. We are not against mining but it must be developed strategically and not at the expense of precious land, water and agricultural jobs,” Schoen said.
“The Liverpool Plains isn’t out of the woods. NSW Farmers will continue voicing its opposition to the Shenhua Watermark project and impressing upon government the critical importance of protecting prime agricultural land and water resources.”