Given the substantial changes to the application, this approval clearly should have been completely re-exhibited and reassessed. Instead, the Planning Assessment Commission, which is little more than a rubber stamp for the Planning Department, has approved an open cut mine in the Hunter.
The Planning Assessment Commission has approved an open cut mine in the New South Wales Hunter Valley almost a year after it rejected the project.
Despite opposition from residents and NSW Health the Ashton South East Open Cut project near Singleton has been approved with conditions.
The Planning Assessment Commission rejected the project in December 2011 due to concerns about water and health impacts.
But it was referred back to the Commission after Ashton Coal appealed the decision in the Land and Environment Court.
Further information was provided and the Commission says substantial changes have been made to address concerns raised.
Some of the changes include extending a low permeability barrier, increasing the setback from Glennies Creek and operational controls to manage dust.
The open cut mine south of Camberwell will produce 16.5 million tonnes of coal over seven years and will use existing facilities and infrastructure from the neighbouring underground mine.
New South Wales Greens MP David Shoebridge says the approval is equivalent to giving the coal company a ‘second bite at the cherry’.
Mr Shoebridge says the project should have been re-exhibited and re-assessed as a new project given the substantial changes made to the most recent approval.
“This shows the community will always lose out when matters go before the planning assessment commission regarding mines,” he said.
“The miners are given a second bite at the cherry but the community never is.
“Even when they think they’ve had a victory it’s taken away through this second bite at the cherry.”
The Planning Assessment Commission’s report can be found here.