Muswellbrook Council Apology On Mine
By JOANNE McCARTHY
A HUNTER community “shattered” by a coal mine has received an apology from the council that wouldn’t listen.
Muswellbrook mayor Martin Rush has apologised to Wybong residents for the council’s support for Mangoola coal mine in 2007, and in 2004 when it was known as Anvil Hill.
“There is a great deal of shame that council supported that development and I apologise to the Wybong community and others that it did so over the objections of its own residents,” Cr Rush said this week.
“Although the NSW government approved it, council supported it and for that, it is right for the council to apologise.”
He said the mine had cost the Wybong community too much.
More than half Wybong valley’s population, or more than 400 people, have left because of property buy-outs.
It “opened up a new front in the middle of a productive agricultural belt and in an area identified as a critical biodiversity link between Wollemi National Park and the Greater Eastern Ranges”, Cr Rush said.
Road infrastructure approved for the project was “woefully inadequate to support traffic generated by the mine”, and the company had struggled to comply with consent conditions, leading to breaches and fines.
Mangoola owner Xstrata has been fined for releasing sediment-laden dirty water into Wybong Creek and for disturbing aboriginal artefacts.
The mine was the subject of many noise complaints last year.
“No part of the environmental impact statement disclosed that there would be such large dislocation of a rural community,” Cr Rush said.
The apology follows the release of the council’s draft land use management strategy in which councillors endorsed what has become known as the “Mangoola clause”.
“Council acknowledges that the Mangoola coal mine project has secured approval, but notes that the project presents with substantial land use conflict. Council will not support any intensification of extraction or the expansion of the disturbance footprint presently permitted in respect of that mine,” the draft strategy said.
Wybong Action Group president John Shewan said his group “acknowledged and accepted the belated apology” to a community “absolutely shattered” by the mine. He said the group needed council support to oppose the nearby Ridgelands exploration lease area and Yarrawa project.
An Xstrata spokesman said the company would not comment.