Hume Coal unhappy at Sutton Forest, Southern Highlands EIS requirement

Hume Coal unhappy at Sutton Forest, Southern Highlands EIS requirement
Hume Coal unhappy at Sutton Forest, Southern Highlands EIS requirement

Hume Coal says it hasn't been stumped by the unhelpful decision of the NSW Resources and Energy department, but admits it has now been forced into reconsidering how it will proceed with the controversial Sutton Forest, South Highlands coal exploration application.

“This decision does not impact current studies including mine planning, environmental assessments and community consultation programmes as the project continues to move towards the formal planning process,’’ Hume Coal project director, Greig Duncan advised locals.

"The project is currently considering how it will proceed with the application,” Mr Duncan said by press release.

The NSW director of environmental sustainability ruled this week that Hume Coal will be required to undertake an environment impact study for its Sutton Forest mining exploration application as it was "likely to significantly affect the environment".

The decision, made under delegation from the Minister for Resources and Energy (DRE) Anthony Roberts, was interpreted by Property Observer as a significant victory against the South Korean company mining plans for the scenic South Highlands locality.

The government decision was official recognition of the concerns of the local resident activists, who have included actor Nicole Kidman and singer Keith Urban.

The South Korean-backed Hume Coal mining company emerged in 2011 as the $8 million buyer of a beef cattle farm virtually on the doorstep of Nicole Kidman’s peaceful Sutton Forest retreat, Bunya Hill.

The celebrity couple hung a protest placard on the gates of their $6.5 million Southern Highlands retreat that condemned coal mining in 2012.

Kidman was among 424 land owners in the 115-square-kilometre exploration area who were advised in 2011 that 120 test exploration holes would be drilled to check on the size of the coal offerings.

Three years on the latest proposed drilling of up to 90 coal exploration boreholes has been determined as "likely to have a significant impact on the environment," the departmental determination ruled yesterday

"DRE is generally concerned that the intensity of the proposed exploration drilling may lead to a significant impact or cumulative impact on the Sutton Forest community."

The report noted the Office of Agricultural Sustainability & Food Security (OASFS) assessed the activity as a medium risk to agriculture due to the amount of drilling across a broad agricultural landscape with sensitive receptors

OASFS also identified further agricultural issues of concern as there was little detail on the remediation for any loss of water resources for agriculture

Influential 2GB broadcaster Alan Jones said after reporting the departmental decision that it was important to "stop this mob of vandals in their tracks".

"Minister Roberts ...he's not without some guts," he said.

Hume Coal says the decision of the department requests additional environmental assessments to determine the company’s proposed phase three exploration program or for the company to amend the original application.

“The current REF 3 proposal was designed to provide certainty for the community by including the balance of our planned exploration activities together in a single approval document," Mr Duncan suggested.

Hume Coal said their reading of the department's assessment report concluded their exploration was unlikely for there "to be significant impacts on land, flora, fauna or water as a result of the proposed drilling.

"Despite this we have been asked to conduct a more detailed environmental assessment or amend our original application before resubmitting," a seemingly peeved Mr Duncan argued. 

Mr Duncan made no comment on the DRE noting concern that the Phase 3 exploration activity added to the two previous exploration campaigns occurring in recent years may could lead to "a significant cumulative socio- economic impact on the local community."

"Specifically, the intensity of exploration drilling proposed in the REF (i.e. 90 holes) is considered to be a substantial impost on the local community given that the exploration is proposed to occur in a minor portion of the Authorisation area and over a time period of five years.

"It is considered likely that landholders subject to exploration will be significantly affected by a significant number of drill holes occurring on properties of a small to medium size," the DRE report noted.

Photo courtesy of Kate Ausburn/Flickr/Creative Commons.

Jonathan Chancellor

Jonathan Chancellor

Jonathan Chancellor is one of Australia's most respected property journalists, having been at the top of the game since the early 1980s. Jonathan co-founded the property industry website Property Observer and has written for national and international publications.

New South Wales

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