The mining industry will face tighter regulation in coming years as the NSW Government moves to improve air quality, protect farmland and rehabilitate mining sites, top state government officials said yesterday.
Speaking at a NSW Minerals Council conference in Wollongong, the government's primary industries, planning and infrastructure, and environment protection authority chiefs spoke about new controls mining companies will face now and in the future.
Planning and infrastructure deputy director general Richard Pearson said miners would face extra hurdles under the recently released Strategic Regional Land Use Plans.
Designed to manage the conflicting interests of farmers, environmental groups and mining companies, the plans will install an independent panel to assess new mining projects on agricultural or environmentally significant land.
"Both the mining industry and the farming industry have had strong views in the process of developing of these plans," Mr Pearson said.
"We're putting in place a gateway process to make sure that mining projects are thoroughly assessed by an independent panel before they can proceed to the development application stage."
He said the mining industry had argued against stronger regulation, but farmers wanted better control over land they said was "crucial to the state's food future".
"Yes, this is an additional regulatory hurdle, and industry is not that happy about it, but we think it's important to address the impacts on the best agricultural land in the state," Mr Pearson said.
EPA chief Barry Buffier told delegates his agency's highest priority was improving air quality and small dust particle monitoring, especially near coalmines in the Hunter.
"It's a big issue for us in the EPA because it's a big issue for the community, and the community has fairly clearly said air quality is important," he said.
"When you look at what's happened over the last 10 or so years, particulate matter emissions in the Hunter have increased."