Rejected: $2b Bylong coal mine knocked back
A new coal mine in the central west of the state has been knocked back in a decision that could put the future of the $2 billion industry at risk.
The state government's Independent Planning Commission has refused the development application for the mine at Bylong, near Mudgee, claiming they are concerned about "long-lasting environmental, agricultural and heritage impacts" including greenhouse gases and groundwater.
They also claimed the mine - which was set to generate 650 jobs during construction and 450 during production plus inject $300 million into the state's economy - was not in the public interest.
South Korean mining company Kepco was behind the application for the open cut and underground coal mine in the Bylong Valley.
The IPC said in a statement this afternoon that the planned mine would "extract up to 120 million tonnes of run-of-mine coal over 25 years for the thermal coal export market".
NSW Minerals Council CEO Stephen Galilee slammed the decision saying it "represents everything that is wrong" with the NSW planning system while Planning Minister Rob Stokes watches idly.
"This refusal is a massive lost opportunity for the local region and in particular the communities of Kandos and Rylstone where the economic injection from the jobs and investment associated with the project are desperately needed," Mr Galilee said.
"This refusal comes after more than seven years of assessment, including repeated changes to the assessment processes and requirements during this period, highlighting just how difficult and complicated the current NSW planning system has become."
The Department of Planning, Industry and Environment referred the state significant development application to the IPC for determination in October last year claiming there was "significant" opposition to the mine.
The IPC held meetings in Mudgee with locals and said multiple issues were raised with them as they deliberated whether to approve the mine.
These included the loss of agriculture land, air quality and greenhouse gas emissions, groundwater and surface water impacts, noise and economic and social benefits including job creation.
Despite knocking back the proposal, the Commission found that the mine had multiple acceptable environmental impacts.
"Predicted air quality, biodiversity, noise, subsidence and visual impacts are acceptable and/or can be effectively managed or mitigated," the IPC said in a statement.
But they said there was "significant concern about other longer-lasting environmental impacts" citing "unacceptable" groundwater impacts and concerns about how the land would be rehabilitated post-mining.
"Given the expected level of disturbance to the existing natural landscape, the Commission does not consider that a recreated landscape post-mining will retain the same aesthetic, scenic, heritage and natural values; and greenhouse gas aspects of the Project remain problematical".
The IPC said the economic benefits did not outweigh the lasting affects on the land if the mine went ahead.
"The Commission acknowledged the anticipated economic and social benefits to NSW during the life of the mine - including the creation of hundreds of jobs and the payment of royalties totalling up to $290 million," the statement said.
"However, it found the environmental impacts, particularly on groundwater and productive agricultural land, would last long after the mine is decommissioned."
"The Project is not in the public interest because it is contrary to the principles of ESD (ecologically sustainable development) - namely intergenerational equity because the predicted economic benefits would accrue to the present generation but the long-term environmental, heritage and agricultural costs will be borne by the future generations."
Mr Galilee the project had wide support in the community.
"Despite support from the local community, local MPs, local council, local businesses, and the Department of Planning Infrastructure and Environment which assessed that the project was approvable with conditions, the project has been refused by the delegated authority of the IPC, acting on behalf of the NSW Government but with no accountability to either the government itself or the public," he said.
"The role of the IPC demonstrates how the NSW Government has allowed the economic future of regional NSW, and regional communities like Kandos and Rylstone, to be left at the mercy of an unelected and unaccountable body, with no legal obligation to abide by any of the policies of the elected government of the day. This is an absurd and dangerous economic approach that risks making NSW an international investment laughing stock, losing investment and jobs due to uncertainty on who sets planning policy in NSW - faceless bureaucrats or elected representatives?"