THE federal government’s Minister for Resources and Northern Australia Matthew Canavan was given a first hand look at some of the region’s coal mines on Saturday.
Accompanied by Whitehaven Coal CEO Paul Flynn, the Senator was shown the site of the potential Vickery Coal Mine expansion project and Whitehaven Coal’s Maules Creek Coal Mine.
Senator Canavan told Fairfax Media he was impressed with what he saw during his visit.
“I am always keen to see more opportunities get delivered for this country and I think the developments at Maules Creek have been great for this region,” Senator Canavan said.
“If we can replicate that with the proposed Vickery project that would be great.”
The Senator’s visit comes after the NSW Department of Planning and Environment publicly released 574 submissions made regarding the Vickery project’s environmental impact statement (EIS).
Of the 574 submissions, around 60 per cent were in favour of the proposed project, while nearly 35 per cent objected and the remaining 5.2 per cent of submissions made comment about the project.
“I suppose while unintentional, my visit has been timely in regards to the submissions being made public,” Senator Canavan said.
“There appears to be a lot of support for this project from not only this region but further afield as well.
“However, the submissions are not the only determinate, we have robust environmental standards in place to protect the environment for all Australians.
“I am confident those standards will be applied as they are through all proposed projects around Australia.
“There is obviously a lot of issues to work through here as there always is with any new major projects, but if Whitehaven can clear those hurdles then that will be great.”
Whitehaven Coal CEO Paul Flynn said the company would look to address the concerns raised during the submission process.
“The consultation that took part prior to us lodging the EIS and since the exhibition has been ongoing,” Mr Flynn said.
“I think the submission process is an extension of that consultation – we are inviting people to have a say.
“There has been good feedback in there and we are encouraged by what we hear.”
Issues raised in several submissions included the project’s proposed rail construction and long-term impact on surrounding farm land.
“The points of focus that have emerged through the consultation process and those submissions are areas we have already done a lot of work on,” Mr Flynn said.
“We feel quite confident what we predicted would be the areas that people want to investigate further are ones we are well prepared for.”
Mr Flynn said the next step for the project would be a hearing commissioned by the Independent Planning Committee.
“The next step is a hearing which I’m hopeful will occur by the end of the year,” he said.
“We will be preparing for that and it will be another good opportunity for the community to be heard.
“It is up to the government when and if the final tick of approval is made, but we would love to be constructing in the early part of 2020.
“In the meantime we will continue to consult with the community and look to ease any concerns they have with the project.”