A merits review has been conducted by the Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) of the Boggabri and Maules Creek proposals. It recommended that they both be approved, despite acknowledging that additional study and strategies are required on air quality and biodiversity issues.
The PAC basically concluded that clearing 5,000 hectares of native vegetation, effectively destroying the largest remnant of bush left on the Liverpool Plains, would nothave a significant impact on the environment. We argue that a system that approves mines like this is incapable of rejecting any mine on environmental grounds. The mines will now be sent to a second Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) to make a final decision. The fact that a merits review was conducted means that community groups and individuals are not allowed to challenge the mine in the Land and Environment Court on its merits. Our legal rights have quashed.
The Federal Government has called in the Maules Creek and Tarrawonga mines, but only partially called in the Boggabri Coal Mine. This means mining of 500ha of the nationally endangered Box-Gum woodland in the Boggabri expansion will not require Federal approval. This woodland is in prime condition, with very few weeds and some 100 hollows per hectare recorded, which means it is vital habitat for many birds and animals. This area is one of the best standards of Box-Gum woodland left anywhere in Australia.
The mines have been pushed through the NSW development assessment process despite the fact neither the Namoi Water Study, the cumulative risk assessment of mining in the Namoi Catchment nor the Strategic Regional Land Use Planning process have been completed yet. The mines have been rushed through before the wider impacts and risks have been properly considered.
The mines have not yet been referred to the new Independent Expert Scientific Committee, despite the fact they are likely to have a significant impact on water resources via:
- Biodiversity impacts on a unique suite of aquatic invertebrates which live in the Maules Ck aquifer, known as stygofauna, that are sensitive to changes in water depth and chemistry.
- The proposed diversion of 3km of Goonbri Creek, a system in high ecological condition, by the Tarrawonga Coal Mine.
- Dramatic changes to drainage and landform, including the possible creation of ‘final voids’ which are hundreds of metres deep.