2 September, 2013

Ashton case highlights failure of the planning system to protect human health and the environment

The Hunter Environment Lobby is in court today mounting a last bid to stop the expansion of a polluting and environmentally destructive coal mine at the edge Camberwell village northwest of Singleton.

The Ashton Coal’s South East Open Cut (SEOC) mine proposal consists of an open-cut coal mine on the floodplain of Glennies Creek within a few hundred metres of Camberwell that would produce up to 3.6 million tonnes of coal a year for seven years.

Hunter Environment Lobby spokesperson Bev Smiles said court action was the only option left for communities that will bear the brunt of the development.

“This will have a devastating impact on the local community and environment if it is allowed to progress, and we intend to fight until we have exhausted all avenues,” Ms Smiles said.

“We will argue in court that the expansion should never have been approved by the Planning Assessment Commission last October, which overturned their previous rejection of the project in December 2011. This mine will have unacceptable impacts on people’s health and the streams and aquifers that feed into the Hunter River.

“This proposal was approved despite the continuing opposition of the Health Department. NSW Health recognised that Camberwell village was already seriously affected by the dust and noise from three surrounding open-cut operations, and the cumulative impact of the Ashton South East Open Cut would cause major health problems, not only for the people of Camberwell but for people in the wider Singleton district.

“Just last week, Hunter Valley residents have received their 100th air pollution alert, and particle pollution in Camberwell has exceeded the national standard for PM10 a total of 22 times this year. [1]

“This alarming air quality record has occurred with the existing operations in the area. The cumulative impact of another open-cut mine will increase dust levels, with obvious harmful effects on the people.”

Nature Conservation Council Campaigns Director Kate Smolski said last year’s approval of the project was an appalling failure of the state’s planning system.

“It was a dark day for the Hunter Valley when the Planning Assessment Commission brushed aside community health concerns and the opposition of health experts on the way to approving this project,” Ms Smolski said. “This is one more example of the O’Farrell government putting mining profits before the health and wellbeing of communities.

“The failure of the planning system to protect public health and the environment has left the vulnerable community of Camberwell with no alternative but to take legal action.

“They should be commended for continuing to fight for their rights and to protect the environment against such tremendous odds.”

[1] NSW EPA Air Pollution Alerts http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/aqms/aqialerts.htm

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Coal and gasPlanning and Development

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