A KOREAN Government-backed mining company has assured the NSW Government of the “criticality” of an Upper Hunter coal mine proposal to Korea over the next 25 years in a bid to get the project over the line after a scathing Planning Assessment Commission assessment.
Coal from the proposed Bylong mine between Denman and Mudgee was critical to the company “and the South Korean people more generally”, government-backed KEPCO said in a response released on Tuesday to a 2017 PAC assessment.
But Lock the Gate spokesperson Georgina Woods said the Bylong proposal was a test for the NSW Government and whether it was committed to coal for Korea or agriculture in Bylong to feed the people of NSW.
“The question is, which need will the New South Wales Government choose to meet?” she said.
A recent letter from KEPCO to the NSW Department of Planning confirmed the “criticality of suitable coal” for Korea into the future “and relieves any doubt” about the need for the Bylong project until at least the year 2043, KEPCO said.
The statement was made despite a global shift to renewables because of cost and countries’ commitments to meet Paris agreement climate change targets, and a revised Korean power supply plan in December showing a shift to renewables and natural gas over the next decade. Despite the shift nuclear and thermal coal would still account for 60 per cent of the country’s power generation by 2030, the plan said.
KEPCO has spent more than $702 million on the controversial Bylong project which could see an open cut and underground coal mine in the previously un-mined Bylong valley, producing 6.5 million tonnes of coal per year.
A large percentage of the $702 million has been spent on controversial property buy-outs of more than 10,000 hectares of the Bylong Valley since 2010, including the iconic Tarwyn Park and Iron Tank farms, the local church and the general store.
In its response to the PAC assessment KEPCO said it had already had to accept a “magnitude of compromise” on the project to balance, “to the maximum extent possible”, extraction of a “significant coal resource” while balancing social and environmental constraints of the existing agricultural setting.
In an assessment in 2017 the Department of Planning said the Bylong proposal was “approvable, subject to stringent conditions”, but a PAC assessment found “substantial doubt persists about the potential benefits and impacts of the Bylong coal project, despite extensive research and peer assessment”.
The proposal lacked key information about the impacts on the landscape, water resources and the community, and there was “uncertainty and incomplete information” about the project’s risks.
In its response on Tuesday KEPCO said it had conducted further sensitivity testing of water impact modelling, in response to PAC concerns, which concluded there was a “high level of confidence” the mine water management system could be managed over the life of the project to prevent mine water from being discharged from the site.
The company had started discussions with landholders about a compensatory water supply agreement “in the unforeseen and improbable event that their water supplies are directly affected by the project”, KEPCO said.
The company said the proposal would generate $290 million in present-value royalties for the NSW Government over the life of the mine.
Lock the Gate said KEPCO’s response did not deal with the fundamental problem raised by the Planning Assessment Commission – that the mine “would represent a fundamental shift in the valley in favour of mining as opposed to agricultural or pastoral pursuits, and that the water security on which agricultural activities depend, may be jeopardised”.
“The Bylong Valley is exceptionally beautiful, productive and rare. There’s no sense in cutting open Bylong’s strategic farmland for a short-term coal mine that will leave future generations with a depleted aquifer, ruined soil and empty villages,” Ms Woods said.
“Nothing that has been released by KEPCO today changes this basic equation. The water, heritage and farmland at Bylong are irreplaceable, but the coal is not. We must make sure the Planning Assessment Commission makes the sensible choice and refuses permission for this mine.”
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