Environmentalists furious at council claim the public had made 'zero comment' on mine expansion - Illawarra Greens

Environmentalists furious at council claim the public had made 'zero comment' on mine expansion

Greens Councillor Cath Blakey will raise a motion at next Monday's council meeting that "on the basis of community concerns of increased heavy vehicle traffic, dust, noise, threat to the drinking water catchment, Aboriginal heritage sites and greenhouse gas emissions, as well as Wollongong Coal's poor track record on workplace safety, debt servicing and operating compliance" the council oppose the mine expansion.

Read the article by Ben Langford in The Illawarra Mercury, 21 October 2020

Environmentalists furious at council claim the public had made 'zero comment' on mine expansion

NO DEAL: City councillor Cath Blakey at Bellambi Creek, which the miner has not realigned as agreed. Picture: Sylvia Liber.
 NO DEAL: City councillor Cath Blakey at Bellambi Creek, which the miner has not realigned as agreed. Picture: Sylvia Liber.

Other than those members of the mine's Community Consultative Committee (CCC) - council's Ron Zwicker told the IPC there had "been really zero comment from the wider public".

The IPC held two days of hearings into Wollongong Coal's plan to expand its colliery further beneath the water catchment behind Russell Vale.

When council's representatives were asked if they had received any comments or submissions from residents about the effect of the mine, council special projects and planning support manager Ron Zwicker said "not really" - when residents had made their concerns known over many years.

Mr Zwicker said other than "three or four" people on the Community Consultative Committee there had been "zero comment from the wider public".

Mr Zwicker said he "seen first hand" what residents think at the Community Consultative Committee meetings - but the Illawarra Residents for Responsible Mining (IRRM) group said council figures had not attended half of them over the past two years.

Council's divisional manager of development assessment certification Mark Riordan said there had been "some concern" over "the responsibility of the owners" and [the] pace of which they've gone about complying with some past conditions".

But he said opponents were just revisiting "anxieties they had in the past".

"What planet are these guys on?" IRRM member Gavin Workman said.

"We've seen hundreds of people stand up and oppose this mine from the immediate area, there have been dozens of protests over the years about the mine's noise, dust, trucks and close proximity to residential areas.

"There have even been protests at the council itself about their handling of the 'slag heap' approval."

Greens Councillor Cath Blakey said she had heard concerns about non-attendance at CCC meetings.

"Councillors have been hearing concerns about the Russell Vale mine in particular," she said.

"Those concerns have been long held."

Cr Blakey will raise a motion at next Monday's council meeting that "on the basis of community concerns of increased heavy vehicle traffic, dust, noise, threat to the drinking water catchment, Aboriginal heritage sites and greenhouse gas emissions, as well as Wollongong Coal's poor track record on workplace safety, debt servicing and operating compliance" the council oppose the mine expansion.

A spokeswoman for Wollongong City Council said the comments were made in the context of council not being the authority responsible for collating public submissions.

"As the assessment of the proposal is led by the NSW State Government, and not council, we have not sought submissions or comments from our community," she said.

"Staff acknowledged there has been a long history to this site, and that 'there is ongoing concern largely around - from the community around some of the past approvals'.

"Staff stated at the hearing council reserved the right to make a final submission following the hearing, and were interested to hear our community's latest comments regarding the proposal."