Content by: Christine Perrers and Tracey Carpenter

Who would allow a company in liquidation to re run a dumped application for an open cut coal mine, on public land in the iconic Gardens of Stone, alongside a rural village?

Well…. the NSW Government is considering just such an application; and with the enthusiastic backing of our Federal Member, according to his column last week.

Coalpac, now under administration, has lodged an application to mine 315 hectares of the Ben Bullen State Forest, near the township of Cullen Bullen. The proposal is to restart and expand a coalmine into the beautiful pagoda country of the Gardens of Stone near Lithgow in a region recommended for protection as a conservation reserve.

The project is the latest version of an application the Department of Planning and Infrastructure and the Planning Assessment Commission have rejected because of its unacceptable environmental impacts. The current modified proposal threatens the integrity of Ben Bullen State Forest, its biodiversity, scenic landscape and unique geology.

Ben Bullen State Forest is publically owned land set aside for the harvesting of a renewable resource (timber), not for unsustainable industries such as today’s coal mining.  The State Forest is a regional recreational asset, and because of its high conservation values has been proposed for reservation and protection as a State Conservation Area.  Ben Bullen State Forest and the nearby Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area play an important role in ameliorating the deleterious effects of man’s modern lifestyle on the environment, on which we all depend.

Mining operations 24/7, producing dust, creating ceaseless noise, turning night into day with high intensity lighting, and contaminating surface and ground waters, will impact insidiously, incrementally and detrimentally on the health of Cullen Bullen residents and nearby rural communities.

Coalpac argues that the mine is needed to pay for environmental rehabilitation of new and historical damage. This reveals that Coalpac has not rehabilitated land as required by previous mine approvals. This confirms the inadequacy of the company’s business planning, its incapacity to fulfill it’s environmental undertakings and past failures in the State’s environmental planning controls to enforce conditions of approvals.

Is it the right of a Government to give away publically owned land with no thought for future generations, to irrevocably allow the destruction of the biodiversity, scenic landscape and unique geology of that land, and to seriously impair the health and well being of nearby residents and farming communities, their crops and livestock, all for short term and questionable revenue gain?

The Ben Bullen State Forest must be reserved.

Christine Perrers and Tracey Carpenter are Members of Bathurst Community Climate Action Network