- Rocky Hill coalmine rejection
- Victory celebrations in the Gloucester Valley
- Proposed Styx Coal Mine in Central Queensland
John van der Kallen
Finally the Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) handed down its determination against the Rocky Hill mine situated at the edge of Gloucester in NSW. This was the sensible and obvious decision but it takes a lot of work to get there!
The mine was rejected because it was not in the public interest and that it changed the land use from rural to industrial. The public interest included the long term impact on health. In particular they were concerned about increase in asthma and toxic gases from blast plumes which were highlighted by DEA. Many of the residents of Gloucester are overjoyed by the decision. Congratulations to Steve Robinson and Garry Lyford for their work.
The PAC also recognised the significant impact on mental health with, “elevated levels of stress, angst, anxiety, depression and solastalgia” in the community.
However, in the final determination from the Planning Assessment Commission there are a number of statements which are of concern. They reflect the underlying basis on which further decisions are made. There is still a long way to go before those making the final determinations truly accept the impact of these mines. For example:
With regard to Indigenous Heritage, the PAC states that the mine “would result in impacts on Indigenous Cultural heritage” but it would be an “acceptable impact”.
With regard to water, the PAC states there “would be an acceptable impact on surface water”, noting that there were insufficient water rights for the project but that the company had a “commercial in confidence” deal with Yancoal to transfer surplus groundwater. Apparently this would make up the difference.
There were many opinions regarding economic benefit and the PAC concluded that there was no definite evidence for overall positive or negative economic impact. However, the health costs are not factored into this assessment. Clearly if health and the impacts of climate change are included the overall economic benefit would be negative.
Despite a worsening of air quality and noise levels, the application fell within the accepted standards.
With regards to health, “no determinative evidence has been presented to conclude whether the mine would have a definitely positive or negative impact on health” but fortunately they did accept that there would be adverse long term health impacts and that this was against the “public interest”.
Overall, it is very pleasing that this mine proposal has been rejected. The proponent can still appeal. There is still a mining lease and the residents are now trying to get the lease removed. It is still not over……
In the rejection of the Rocky Hill mine DEA members have been at the forefront of local community action. Garry Lyford local general practitioner writes;-
How sweet it is to sniff an environmental victory! And how remarkable to enjoy that feeling twice in just under two years! But this summer break many Gloucester residents are permitting themselves to forget their pens, petitions, placards and public meetings as the NSW Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) for the Rocky Hill Coal Mine has delivered a report critical of the project and recommending that the project not go ahead. And this decision was so soon after AGL walked away from their proposed gas field in the Gloucester Valley.
There’s now a chance to breathe again and see that this small town has a truly rural future and not a fate as an industrial Armageddon.
The battle here has had many heroes and many foot soldiers. The local community group Groundswell Gloucester has assembled a formidable team of local people of diverse skills who have poured thousands of individual hours into defeating these two projects. How a small country town can provide a skill base covering areas such as hydrology, climate, noise and dust pollution, mining law, geology and media skills is astounding.
DEA was an early participant in these environmental challenges and our role has been much appreciated. Melissa Haswell made many trips here to inform people of the health implications of CSG extraction and fracking, while John van der Kallen has always been so ready to lend his support through DEA with public speaking and submissions against the Rocky Hill Mine. The resources available through the DEA website have proved so useful to me, a local GP, in the letters and public meeting that I have been involved with, while Steve Robinson, a DEA member and local resident has inspired many with his resolute stand against both ventures and the knowledge of the public health issues of the fossil fuel industry.
We are daring to dream here that 2018 will see so many more local campaigns all over Australia settled on the side of social and environmental justice.
Whilst the Adani mine proposal still occupies our minds and fuels our anxieties for the future of the World, Queensland has produced another horror story perhaps to deflect our attention from the big one?
The Styx proposal near to Rockhampton is the Rock Horror show, literally with Bruce Highway closures needed during blasting-(toxic blast plumes can carry up to 6km- with perhaps the occasional rock thrown in) drainage to an estuary 6k away and thence to coastal waters and the Barrier Reef, inappropriate use of ground water, flawed air quality measures and no greenhouse accounting
DEA’s assessment is here and we invite you to read it and be shocked.
DEA prepared this submission in parallel with Australia Institute response (not yet on their web site) and we presented our joint findings to the ABC with good media outcomes.
Why the proposal? Jobs, jobs. Jobs, and yet another Queensland government advertises its incompetence in providing rational 21st century development.