The future of the Bylong Valley hangs in the balance. Korean-owned power company KEPCO has plans for two open cut coal mines (to operate for 10 years) and an underground mine (to operate for 20 years), to dig up 6.5 million tonnes of thermal coal a year, with 24/7 operations.
If this big new mine complex goes ahead it will transform the pristine and productive valley into a series of coal pits and industrial coal infrastructure.
The NSW Government is currently inviting submissions on KEPCO's plans. We have until Friday 6 November to review KEPCO's mine plans and send in our feedback.
How to have your say
The NSW Planning Department is currently inviting the public to have a say on KEPCO's plans to mine the Bylong Valley, as outlined in the "Environmental Impact Statement" prepared by the company. The Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) document describes and details the effects a development proposal (in this case, KEPCO's proposed mine) will have on the environment and advises on how best to manage environmental impacts arising.
The public submission period is open until Friday 6 November.
You can have your say by completing this form.
Your feedback can be as comprehensive or as brief as you like: you can choose to provide feedback on each part of KEPCO's proposed mine, or you can choose certain sections of the plan that you have particular experience or interest in providing feedback on (for example, your submission might deal specifically with the mine's potential impacts on water).
KEPCO's EIS is a very large document (that you can download and read in full here). We have provided some starting points you might like to consider in providing your feedback on this proposed coal mine.
Points you might like to include in your submission:
1. The predicted long-term impacts on prime agricultural land and water systems in the Bylong Valley are unacceptable and will not be mitigated through proposed offsets and rehabilitation. The renowned Tarwyn Park natural sequence farming processes will be destroyed.
2. A significant area of prime agricultural land will be destroyed: the mine footprint will disturb 2,875 hectares (ha) of land including 440 ha of Bioregional Significant Agricultural Land (BSAL), 260 ha being destroyed in open cut, plus 700 ha of mapped Critical Equine Industry Cluster land. The proposal to replace BSAL at another location is untested and high risk.
3. Impacts on groundwater and surface water will be significant. The highly connected alluvial aquifer system within the stressed Bylong River catchment will have predicted peak losses of up to 295 million litres per year (ML/yr). Loss of base flows to the Bylong River is predicted to be 918 ML/yr. The mine proposes to use up to 1,942 ML/yr which is over 75% of the annual rainfall recharge. The river system is over allocated and local farmers will lose important water supply.
4. The mine disturbance area has very high biodiversity values that will not be mitigated through the proposed offset arrangements. Nationally endangered species recorded in the area include the Brush-tailed Rock Wallaby, New Holland Mouse, Regent Honeyeater and Spotted-tailed Quoll. Three entirely new plant species were recorded. A significant area of critically endangered Grassy Box Gum Woodland will be destroyed along with habitat for 17 threatened birds and 7 threatened plants.
5. The area has Aboriginal cultural heritage significance: 239 sites were recorded in the study area with 25 regarded as being of high local or regional significance (including an ochre quarry, grinding grooves and rock shelters); 144 sites have been identified at risk from mine impacts with 102 within the open cut area.
6. Important European heritage, including the Catholic Church Cemetery, Upper Bylong Public School and a number of historic homesteads and farm buildings will be destroyed in the open-cut. The social impacts on the Bylong community have already been devastating.
The pristine Bylong Valley has some of NSW’s best agricultural land and has historically hosted beef, dairy and crop farming and horse breeding. Today it is predominantly beef cattle and lucerne hay production, with some crops.
The valley has a long and proud thoroughbred breeding history. Since the 1850s it has bred thoroughbred horses, including racing champions and 'Walers' which carried the WW1 Light Horse Brigades.
The Bylong Valley's beauty is renowned and it is a National Trust listed Landscape Conservation Area (2013), based on its ‘prime agricultural land with a rural landscape of exceptional scenic value’. The National Trust also notes the major scientific significance of the area, stemming from implementation of Peter Andrews' Natural Sequence Farming on the internationally renowned 'Tarwyn Park'.
A few years ago the Bylong Valley Way was sealed, creating a major link between the Hunter and Central West. It is now regarded as one of Australia’s Top 10 drives and is extremely popular with both drivers and motorbike riders.
Why it's important to make a submission
If we don't provide our feedback in planning processes such as this one, the NSW Government only hears from KEPCO. When we provide our feedback, however brief, we help NSW Planning understand there are different perspectives and we provide more information to be considered when the department is making decisions about whether or not the coal mine should ultimately proceed.
Bylong Valley locals have invited us to support them as they respond to KEPCO's plans to mine their valley. Together we have already raised over $20,000 to help the community commission independent experts. Now we have the opportunity to add our voice to let the NSW Government know this mine is one we object to because of what it would do to the Bylong Valley's agricultural land, biodiversity, social cohesion, water, and Indigenous and European heritage.