A KOREAN Government-backed mining company's pledge to restore some of the state's most fertile soils if a Bylong Valley coal mine goes ahead has been challenged by evidence that no examples exist of successful high grade agricultural soil rehabilitation after mining in NSW.
Lock the Gate Alliance has renewed calls for the KEPCO Bylong mine to be rejected after Department of Planning representatives told the Independent Planning Commission there were "no particular examples" of a mine restoring Biophysical Strategic Agricultural Land (BSAL) in NSW.
BSAL is the top 3.5 per cent of agricultural soil in NSW.
This is despite restoration of 400 hectares of Bylong land forming a key part of the commission's assessment process as it considers whether to approve the controversial mine project between Denman and Mudgee.
A transcript of a meeting between the department and the commission on August 6 showed the Department of Planning's "cavalier disregard" for the destruction of up to 13 per cent of the Bylong Valley's strategic farmland if the mine is approved, Lock the Gate spokesperson Georgina Woods said.
"Department staff said their concerns about the Bylong coal project had been addressed. We are flabbergasted there is no one in the NSW Government willing to say that losing 13 per cent of the strategic farmland of the Bylong Valley to a coal mine is unacceptable."
The transcript, made public on the commission's website, shows "acceptability" of open cut coal mining on prime agricultural land in the NSW Government's policy framework hinges on promises to rehabilitate the BSAL soil.
Department representatives, including executive director for energy and resources Mike Young, told the commission if mine land could be "brought back to the fertility and productivity standards" of before mining, "then this could suffice".
The BSAL restoration is also a condition of consent for the Shenhua mine on the Liverpool Plains.
Department representative John Friend told the commission trials in NSW had "not yet brought that soil up to BSAL or prime agricultural land standard".
"That's not saying that they can't and it won't, but it hasn't happened yet," Mr Friend said.
He confirmed that some of the current NSW trials "are more grazing trials".
Ms Woods slammed the NSW Government's monitoring of BSAL after department representatives were unable to give clear answers to how the 400 hectares of disturbed BSAL land would be monitored if the mine is approved.
"The mining's industry's rehabilitation reputation is patchy at best and in many places is simply abysmal. We cannot rely on vague promises, wishful thinking or experimental practices for the future of agricultural production. We must protect the precious fertile soils that grow our food and fibre, particularly at this time of unprecedented drought," Ms Woods said.
The Independent Planning Commission is in the final stages of considering the Bylong mine proposal to produce 6 million tonnes of coal per year for the Korean domestic energy market.
The commission is yet to rule on whether an expired consent will stop it from being able to make a final determination.
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