Thursday, September 17, 2015

Objections to the Drayton South Project Application continue

(For now this mum & bub are safe near Mount Royal but for how long in our valley of coal mines)

Guest post from local farmer, Peter Hodges of Bowhay Pastoral Company, outlining his submission to the NSW Department of Planning and Environment last week


Dear Ms McNally

Re; Objection to Drayton South Project Application No: SSD6875.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the above proposal. I have commented previously on this proposal and not all that much has changed. The proposed mine expansion is still too close to the Darley and Coolmore operations.

I am not an anti mining person. I have actually worked in 3 underground mines and a mine operated small power station. I appreciate the benefits of mining all sorts of products which help us in many ways. But I am against stupidity.

Putting aside the negative impacts on a lot of other activities such as agriculture, wine industry, tourism and yes, the thoroughbred Industry, let’s have a look at the environmental cost. A recent report I studied, said the mining output from the mines in the Hunter Valley and associated areas was 143 million tonnes for the 2013 year.

What it also indicated was the accepted ratio of per tonne of coal produced was 6.5 cubic metres of overburden removed. Roughly 6.5 tonnes of overburden per tonne of coal produced. That equates to close to 1 billion tonnes of existing geology, smashed. Just in one year.

When starting up a new open cut mining operation, a new mountain of overburden is started, from then on the overburden is thrown into the previous hole created, and as the mine finishes up at the end of the mining run, a hole is left that will more than likely eventually fill up with water.

The question then has to be asked, what will happen with the water that is contaminated from the now released by-product of the mining process. This by-product would have been previously locked away in different impermeable layers of rock and clays etc but now, because that has all been blown up and smashed, it is released. These can be different types of minerals, waters and acids previously contained in geology that evolved over millions of years.

My real fear is this contamination will eventually find its way into the Hunter River and head down to the coastal estuarine habitat areas which are absolutely vital for the continuation of many aquatic species such as young fish prawns worms oysters crabs etc.

Can’t happen?

Well I’ve been on the land, one way or another for most of my life. I grew up in Cessnock and remember vividly the 65/66 drought. The creeks around Cessnock dried up and the fish and yabbies were not happy. We were shown the impact of the drought on the farmers via black and white television. Dead sheep, cattle and crop losses. We landed in the Scone region early in the 1970’s. There were dairy farms and crop production all the way from Muswellbrook to Wingen in a continuous line. Most of the creeks seem to run all year round and occasionally flooded.

Then in 1979 it seemed to all change with the start of the 1979/1983 drought, followed by 1987, 1991, 1995 droughts and then the drought that ran from 2001 to June 2007. That one was broken by the Pasha Bulka, headbutting Newcastle beach. The thing that struck me about the 1970’s was one could bog a tractor on a gravel ridge because there was so much moisture about. When a period like this hits us sometime in the future it is not too hard to work out what the impacts of so much mining in a relatively concentrated area is eventually going to have on our stream and river system. Even with climate change this will still happen because again, as the planet heats up, the extremes will be bigger and have a greater impact. More droughts, more floods and more fires.

The big difference between open cut mining and agriculture based industries is this.

With open cut mining, the landscape is smashed. Yes they do rehabilitation work, but it is yet to be proven to stand the test of time. A scientist friend of mine, Mr Ken Reynolds, who passed away several years ago and who worked for the Soil Conservation Service told me he had been instructed to find a way to rehabilitate overburden. Experiments found the trees planted would last between 15 to 20 odd years but once their roots hit the deeper overburden material they would start to get sick and eventually die. So in other words, rehabilitation would look good from a distance but not stand the test of time. Eventually the land would become useless for agriculture and no good for mining because that’s already been done.

The future is in agriculture, whether it be in food production, such as cattle, sheep, goats, olives, vegetables, wine, hops, crops, citrus, stone fruits etc. And let’s not forget our equine industry. Especially the thoroughbred industry. Combined with all the other equine breeds and uses, the horse industry the last time I looked, was the 3rd biggest employer in the country. Overall In the agricultural sector employment is going up. Opportunities are there and rewarding. I love the stuff!

Employment in the mining industry is heading south and the sackings are continuing, even though overproduction is going up. The idiots in government need to stop throwing snags at the renewable industry because if this industry was allowed to develop it would help make up opportunities for those who lose their jobs in future automated open cut mining. The other thing the government needs to get rid of, are the crooks. But that seems to be a very slow process indeed. The fact that some of them have been politicians might be the problem.

Yours Sincerely

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