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COMMENT: Drayton outcome has both pros and cons

The grief and anguish of the workforce at Drayton is all too understandable. Their hopes for possible future jobs at a newmine 8km away have been raised by their company three times, and dashed by the planners three times.
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It is more than anyone should have to bear.

To make matters worse, people don’t really seem to understand why the mine keeps being refused. Reactions on socialmedia have included easy but dangerous allegations of corruption, threats and boycotts.

But just how many people are actually reading all the three PAC reports to see just what they say and why they keep makingthe same, difficult decision, against a new mine at Drayton South?

To my knowledge, this is one of very, very few mines in NSW to be refused.The PAC has not been afraid to approve highly controversial mines.Could it be that the planners are calling it right? Three times seems to suggest they are.

It is a tough time for the Drayton workers and the blame game is raging furiously.Could it be that Anglo American bears responsibility for their pain, for disregarding the last determination PAC, foroverstating the economic benefits of Drayton South, and its judgement in buying an EL in 2000 that went right up to whatwere already long-established stud farms that have been breeding champions since the 1800s?

Common sense should have told them otherwise, and in fact 4 in 5 people in NSW – including very many people who supportcoal mining, believe that 900 metres is too close between a stud farm and an open cut coal pit.

The planning process is certainly blameworthy in the whole sorry affair and needs to be changed. It has pit worker againstworker, and brought stress and anxiety to families throughout the area – those working at the mine, those working in wineand tourism, and especially those working on the stud farms.

That is the past – or I certainly hope it is. We need to look to the future and in fact, it is not bleak.

Since March, the Hunter Valley has been growing employment twice as fast as the state average – there are 13,000 morepeople at work now than there were in March, despite the collapse in mining. These are jobs in other industries – and this iswhat the PAC decision was about.

The PAC said there were a number of approvable mines to come in the Hunter Valley, and they will surely be glad to hiresuch experienced workers.

And Anglo American will have to rehabilitate the site at Drayton. I sincerely hope that very many of the people who workedhard to remove the coal will have the opportunity to work to reinstate the landscape.

Drayton has been a long-running mine and many of the workers have said that they have been employed there for 25 yearsor even longer. I trust that they will be well looked after by the company.

Every independent expert to have assessed this project to date agrees that Drayton South poses a real risk to important,international industries in the Hunter Valley, and that the equine industry in particular will grow and thrive if protected frommining in very close proximity.

And that is what is meant by co-existence.

Finally, it is time that mining companies became responsible for the socio-economic rehabilitation of a community after theiroperations cease – as they all, inevitably end – as well as for the environmental rehabilitation.

People need support, they need training opportunities and my firm belief is that in 15 years’ time – when Drayton Southwould have been closing up – people will be able to look back and say, that was the right decision. Our area still has mines, itstill has dairy farmers, vineyards, it has more tourists than ever and it is still producing world-class champion racehorses, andsupporting many more jobs.

– Pat Farmer is an advocate forHunter Environment Local Protection group

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