NSW coal miners are up in arms over the state government’s recent moves to toughen up the approval process for major mining projects.
The Baird Government on Tuesday released a draft amendment to NSW’s environmental planning policy on mining. The amendment would remove the significance of the resource as one of the principal considerations in a major approval process.
The significance of the resource is one consideration which often works in the miner’s favour in the approvals process. Removing it from the picture means decision makers will now limit their focus, in terms of principal considerations, to the environmental, social and economic impacts of a project, state planning minister Rob Stokes said.
“The protection of the environment and the promotion of the social and economic welfare of the community have always been objects of planning legislation,” Stokes said.
“The careful deliberation of environmental, economic and social issues is fundamental to good planning.
“This proposed amendment reflects the importance of balance in assessing the likely impacts of mining developments.”
Miners are unhappy with the proposal, saying the NSW Government has spent 18 months trying to enable major projects, and this move contradicts that effort.
NSW Minerals Council boss Stephen Galilee slammed the move, saying the proposed change would remove a component of the legislation designed to protect jobs.
“This is a retrograde step that will hurt NSW,” Galilee said on Tuesday.
“It will put at risk thousands of current and potential jobs, particularly in regional mining communities where unemployment is often well above the state average.”
The Minerals Council’s position is that the ‘significance of the resource’ amendment was added to the planning legislation as a way of balancing the process out so it took all the economics into consideration. Removing it, therefore, would be harmful to the industry.
“Getting the balance right is important,” Galilee continued, “but you can’t have viable communities and a clean environment without a strong economy.
“At the end of last year the Premier committed to halving project assessment time frames to improve investor confidence and support jobs. This proposal does the exact opposite, relegating the industry to uncertainty and putting thousands of jobs in jeopardy.
“There are thousands of mining jobs hanging in the balance in NSW, caught up in the state planning system, including 1800 workers and their families in the Hunter Valley.”
Galilee added that Minister Stokes should ensure that any changes to the legislation “won’t be retrospective and impact on projects close to completing the assessment process.”