BHP Billiton has released a proposed plan for its coalmine on the Liverpool Plains that it says shows beyond doubt there will be no impact on local agriculture, but which opponents maintain could spell the end of farming in the area.
The plan for the Caroona Coal Project is part of the company’s Gateway submission to the NSW government, the first step in the mining approval process.
It presented the submission to a meeting of the Caroona Coal Project Community Consultative Committee yesterday, before it’s sub- mitted to the Mining and Petroleum Gateway Panel tomorrow.
The Gateway process is an independent, scientific assessment of the impact of new state-significant mining and coal seam gas proposals on strategic agricultural land and its associated water resources.
NSW energy coal asset president for BHP Billiton Peter Sharpe said the preliminary environmental studies undertaken as part of the BHP Billiton document indicated the mine would not impact on the underground aquifers, the main bone of contention with those opposed to the project.
Farmer and chairman of the Caroona Coal Action Group Tim Duddy was at yesterday’s meeting and told The Leader in his opinion, the submission had shown the opposite.
“It’s showing an impact of 180m (of drawdown) on some of the aquifers farmers use for irrigation,” he said.
“What this application flags is the beginning of the end of agriculture on the Liverpool Plains.”
Mr Duddy said one of the conditions of the granting of the exploration licence was there would be no mining on or under the flood plain, but the submission indicated this was what was being contemplated.
He said his group would now be writing to the Gateway panel, which has 90 days to assess the submission, outlining their objections.
Members would also continue their fundraising activities to engage more expert opinion in the lead-up to the submission of the company’s final environmental impact statement, which BHP Billiton says is still at least 12 months away.
Mr Sharpe maintained the company would only proceed with the mine if it could satisfy the environmental requirements at each stage of the assessment process and show real benefits for the economy and community.
BHP Billiton says the mine, which is expected to have a 30-year life, will generate 400 full-time jobs at peak production and 600 during construction.