Warkworth Mount Thorley Mine Extension - BMPA Summary

Social, legal and health issues related to unrestrained expansion of coal mines in Australia.

Warkworth Mount Thorley Mine Extension - BMPA Summary

Postby HVPA_research » Sun Oct 09, 2011 11:04 pm

Link to this page: http://forum.huntervalleyprotectionalliance.com/viewtopic.php?f=10&t=386,http://bit.ly/H7DYyi.
Tags: coal,Warkworth Mine, extension,gov,NSW, Bulga,community,health,environment,201110

Mt Thorley-Warkworth Mining Complex Warkworth Extension Project

NSW Department of Planning approved the extension of the RIO TINTO Warkworth Mine open cut coal mine on October 4, 2011. The approval essentially ignores health and environmental concerns of the local resident communities in particular those of Bulga village.
See http://majorprojects.planning.nsw.gov.au/index.pl?action=view_job&job_id=3639
for details.

Bulga Milbrodale Progress Association has prepared a summary of the main points that affect the village of Bulga. The summary text is archived here
and can be also downloaded in PDF format from http://huntervalleyprotectionalliance.com/pdf/WARKW_Advice-to-BMPA-members-project-approval.pdf

Proposed extension to the Warkworth Mount Thorley open cut mine.
The Dept. of Planning has on 4 October 2011 recommended approval of the extension to the Mount Thorley Warkworth mine. The Director General’s Assessment and the conditions of approval are available on the Depts. website.
As the recommendation and conditions are rather long (76 pages and 83 pages respectively) the BMPA has prepared a summary of the main points that affect the village of Bulga. Go to the various pages on the website and read the full item against each reference.
Executive Summary. Read this summary of the report but it does not highlight the various matters which specifically affect Bulga and Milbrodale. The report summarises the various points and states that ‘all can be overcome’ and that on balance the project benefits outweighs the residual impacts and that it is in the Public Interest and should be approved. We do not know who the Public is in this report because it is certainly not the residents of Bulga and Milbrodale!
Page 7 second paragraph. Mining through the offsets. This paragraph states that the primary reason for mining through the existing offsets including parts of the Non Disturbance Areas (NDA’s such as Saddle Ridge etc.) which were supposed to be conserved in perpetuity, is that the resources underlying these offsets which were previously uneconomic to mine are now extremely valuable due to the growth in energy demand and increase in the price of coal. It appears that money is the overriding factor in all these approvals. The NDA’s were supposed to be kept untouched in perpetuity and even had a Deed of Agreement signed between the Mining Company and the Minister for Planning to ensure they would not be touched. The mining company says this was a mistake and as the price has now gone up we want to mine this area. And the Dept. has said okay, go for it!.
Note in the report there is also the term perpetuity used on page 7 relating to “a ‘better offset’ that that would not sterilise coal resources and that could be safely protected in perpetuity”. The word perpetuity has little meaning for the Dept. of Planning (see also page 41 last paragraph and page 46 last paragraph). History has shown that in the future the mining interests will take these as well if the dollar is big enough and it will be supported by the Dept. of Planning!

Page 13 and 14. Closure of Wallaby Scrub Road. The mining company still has to get three other approvals before it can proceed. Two of the approvals will be rubber stamped according to the report but the other, the closure of the Wallaby Scrub Road (WSR), has to have the approval of the Singleton Council. As you will be aware from the recent publicity, Singleton Council (SC) has voted on two occasions to reject the proposed closure of WSR even though they were offered ten million dollars. The pressure will be on SC to change its mind and so we must support Council to withstand the financial onslaught and the government pressure to cave in.

The fact that the council has voted not to close the WSR, does not stop the Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) from approving the project. If the PAC approves the project it will leave it up to the mining company to request and get approval from council to close the road. Without the road closure the project cannot proceed in its present form. It will be interesting to see what tactics the mining company will use to get council to change their vote!

Page 15. Public Benefit. The second paragraph states that “the dept. is satisfied that the project encourages proper use of resources ………….can be carried out using existing surface infrastructure and would provide considerable socio-economic and public benefits”. We do not see that destroying the property values and lifestyles of the residents of Bulga is “considerable socio-economic and public benefit”.

Page 17. One Hundred and one submissions said no! The Dept. of Planning has recommended this project for approval even though as stated in the second paragraph under ‘Special Interest Groups and Community” that of the 102 submissions received from this group and general public during the exhibition period all but one objected to the project! 101 said no and yet the project gets recommended for approval. The community has been completely ignored and the Dept. of Planning has sided with the mining interests. Note that the second last paragraph on page 18 should read 102 not 12)

Page 20. Removal of Saddle Ridge. Under the section headed Assessment of removal of Saddleback Ridge it states that there is no technical basis to support the claim that substantial noise attenuation is achieved by the ridgeline. This is not the view held by the authors of the 2002 EIS that this ridge was an important for both visual and acoustic reasons to act as a buffer between the residents of Bulga and the open cut mine. So important in fact that a ministerial deed was executed to ensure the ridge was not removed. Now, a consultant commissioned by the mine tells us the ridge does not do anything. Tell that to the residents of Bulga that have listened to the noise levels at +45 DBs during the last couple of weeks.
BMPA pointed out in the 42 page submission to the Dept. of Planning that the mine consultants had got the wrong number of houses in Bulga affected by the mine. The consultant response skimmed over the matter and our submission has been ignored. This is important because the recommendation identifies various residences that will be affected by the noise etc. The numbers are understated by 50%!

Page 21. Maximum noise levels. The operational noise levels for Bulga are to be 38db. In our submission we required 35db as for the Bulga Mine approval. This request was ignored
Up to 37 residences are predicted to be moderately affected by noise under the worst case conditions. These are primarily located in Bulga Village. The recommendation states that the mining company has made no written undertaking regarding additional management and mitigation measures for moderately affected residences; however in discussion with the mining company the dept. has recommended conditions providing an upfront entitlement to architectural treatment such as double glazing, insulation and/or air conditioning. This means that with double glazing you must close your windows for the effect to be felt and of course in summer you need to have cooling because of the closed windows so you will need air conditioning. The mine may pay for the air conditioning installation but who pays for the electricity and maintenance cost? Not the mine!

Page 22. No residences affected by noise. In the second paragraph, it states “Importantly no residences within Bulga are predicted top be significantly affected by noise from the project”. Refer to the comments referring to matters on page 20! We are already getting 10db above the max 38 stated in the 2003 DA. This proves to us that the noise modelling put forward by the consultants to the mining company is very wrong.

Page 29 Dust. The report states that “given the significant number of privately owned properties predicted to be affected as a result of the project (Page 22 seems to be in conflict with that statement) the department recommends that Warkworth be required to develop and implement an active dust management system for the MTW mine complex”. The report goes on to state predictive modelling is not currently able to take into consideration active management measures and so the Dept. has recommended conditions which require the acquisition of 8 affected properties and undertake additional dust mitigation measures (such as filters or air conditioning at residences predicted to be significantly or moderately affected. Again who wants to close up their home to keep the dust out and pay for electricity for air conditioning as well!

Page 35 Removal of Saddle Ridge and Deed of Consent. Conceptual approach to Assessment. Under this heading paragraph 3 states “In this particular case the Dept. believes there is considerable merit in reviewing the previous offsets. This is principally because the design of the original offset was flawed: it is underlain with substantial coal reserves a conflict which was acknowledged (but not resolved) in both the 2003 development consent and the associated deed of consent”.

This is fiddling with the truth. The matter was resolved in 2003 with the signing of the Deed of Agreement not to mine Saddle Ridge etc. Coal reserves did not come into the consideration. It was so important that the minister and the Mining Company entered into a Deed of agreement not to mine the offset and NDA areas. The offsets were established based on the merit of the offset. The Mine Company has stated that because of the increase in coal prices the offset areas are now feasible to mine. No conflict there!

Page 37. Warkworth Sands Woodland. In this section it is stated by Dr Peake the clearing of the Warkworth Sands would have a significant impact the WSW community as a whole and could put it at risk of extinction in the long term. He recommended changes to the mine plan to avoid clearing the WSW. The mining company and their consultant opposed this point of view and the mining company won! The mighty dollar featured gain and the proposal by Dr Peake was to have a net cost to society of $311 million. It appears the cost to society of a loss Walworth Sands Woodland is nil.
Dr Peake is considered an expert in the area of the Warkworth Sands Woodland. For the Dept. to take sides with the mining company against him is an insult to his expertise.
As an aside, BMPA tried to secure Dr Peake’s services to assist us in preparing our report on the WSW but were advised that the Dept. of Planning had already secured his services to advise them on the WSW. And now they have ignored him!

Page 42. Re-establishment of high quality diverse ecosystems on rehabilitated landscapes. The Department recognises the inherent risks associated with the re-establishment of high quality diverse ecosystems and rehabilitated landscapes. The Mining Company is offering $500,000 toward research aimed at re-establishment of complex EEC on rehabilitated landscapes. The research does not offer any guarantee and they are not requiring any ecological audit until year 15. There is no proof that the proposed offset areas will be successful and the general view is that it will not.
One on the very important statements by Paul Adams, past Chairman of the NSW Scientific Committee, was included in our submission and is quoted here…
“I am concerned by suggestions that further loss of endangered ecological communities be permitted in circumstances where it is proposed that that loss can be compensated for by a creation of the same or larger area of the community elsewhere….The only certain outcome of such an approach is the loss of an existing stand of the community against possible, but by no means certain, gain of another stand at some time in the future”

Page 54. Visual amenity. In the report the photomontages of saddle Ridge etc. are taken generally from Putty Road. These views are at a low level and do not properly represent the impact of Saddle Ridge as a visual and noise screen for the residents of Bulga. The majority of houses in Bulga are at altitudes above Putty Road and photos from these locations show the true impact of the ridge and its removal. The Putty Road photos are a misleading and misrepresent the reality of Saddle ridge.
Additionally the Dept. has decided that they should not cover or assess matter such as night lighting and its intrusion into homes. They state “From a landscape perspective the project is located in a well-established mining region and as such the potential night lighting impacts would generally be consistent with existing land use.” Sorry residents of Bulga but the Dept. through its previous approvals has now changed your area from farming and agriculture to an industrial quarry and now that we have done that we have decided that intrusive lights do not matter and so we have not assessed the impact of these.
In the Project Approval conditions page 23 it states “(c) ensure no lights shine above the horizontal”. Considering that the current problem with lights is illumination of the dump sites at high level this requirement ensure that the lights will shine directly at Bulga!
On page 59 the Dept. accepts that there will be moderate to high impacts to residences in the Bulga/Inlet Road region. They propose to overcome the visual impact by tree planting etc. For the elevated properties there will have to be a very fast growing tree to keep ahead of the mountain of overburden proposed by the mine. Even though the mine will be within 2.6 kms of Bulga the height for the overburden remains the same as for the existing mine.

Page 60 Paragraph 5. Coal from other sources. The Dept. makes a big deal on how important the mine expansion is the Australian economy, world demand etc. but it does state in this paragraph “it must be noted that if this project was not allowed to proceed, the resultant gap in the coal supply would almost certainly be filled by another coal source etc…” So the Australian economy and the world will not suffer if this mine does not proceed. The residents of Bulga will suffer if this project proceeds!
It is also stated in the last para on this page “….and it must also be acknowledged that the downstream energy and other socio-economic benefits generated by the project would also benefit future generations particularly through the shoring up of national and international energy needs”. Read para 5; they can get coal from elsewhere where there may be less impact on the environment and on Bulga residents. The future generation of people in Bulga is the most important factor!
Page 62. Non Closure of Wallaby Scrub Road. The Dept. states that “From a cost/benefit perspective, maintaining wallaby Scrub Road on its existing alignment would potentially sterilise tens of millions of tonnes of coal which has a potential value of hundreds of millions of dollars.” Again the mighty dollar overrides the interests of the residents of Bulga.
This cost/benefit approach could apply to any other structure/road/park/river in the area. This road is important to us and we must support Council in maintaining its stand against closing or relocating the road. The residents of Bulga are more important than the profits of Rio Tinto
Read again para 5 page 60. They can get their coal elsewhere with less impact

Page 63. No significant effect on Bulga. Para 1 states that “The Department also considers that the relatively limited additional impacts on the Village of Bulga are unlikely to significantly impact on that community's viability”. Tell that the residents of Warkworth, Camberwell and Ravensworth! An open cut mine 2.6 Kms from Bulga with no physical barrier or buffer will have a major impact. For the Dept. of Planning to say otherwise gives an insight into how little they understand about the impact of this project and the views of Bulga residents.
Para 2 states “Council has informed the Department that it is not prepared to accept the offer (money for roads etc.) because it objects in principle to the closure or relocation of WSR. If you attended the Council meeting at the time of the recent vote not to close the road you will be aware that the Council is supporting the residents of Bulga and not a ‘matter of principle’
All of our submissions have been ignored.

John Krey and Stewart Mitchell (for the Bulga Milbrodale Progress Association)
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Joined: Thu Jun 18, 2009 10:26 pm

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