14 May 2010

Coal mine blocked in Upper Hunter Valley, Australia, but who's won?

The New South Wales Government has announced that it has rejected a coal mine major project application in the Upper Hunter Valley of Australia. The decision follows several years of local opposition based on concerns on the potential impacts on the environment, water supplies and health.

As far as I'm aware this is the first time a coal mine application has been rejected in the state of New South Wales. The Government's determination is not up on the website yet so the precise grounds under which the project was rejected remain a little unclear, though the Premier's comments suggest that it was because of concerns about potential impacts on water catchments and the state's thoroughbred horse breeding industry:
“The project was stopped due to risks of water contamination and drainage, particularly on the Pages River, and the incompatibility of land use - threatening the viability of the region's internationally renowned thoroughbred breeding industry.” Source
But what if there weren't expensive horses? Lee Rhiannon of the Greens has said:
"The Premier needs to say no to coal mines that are in areas where communities are doing it tough and they don't have a thoroughbred industry that is cashed up and doing a great job of campaigning," Ms Rhiannon said. "Where there's ordinary people who are worried about their health, worried about the impact on the natural environment." Source
The opposition to the mine was well organised and influential, for example broadcaster Phillip Adams appeared before the Planning Assessment Commission Hearings examining the mine proposal to oppose the application. Would less organised and less socially connected opposition have achieved the same result?