Would Hume Coal cease mining operations if evidence emerged the mine had adverse affects on the Sydney water catchment?
Mayor Ken Halstead posed the question to Hume Coal representatives at a public meeting on June 28.
Hume Coal project director Greig Duncan assured those concerned the Planning Assessment Commission would put in place strict conditions if the mine was approved - including continual monitoring, some of which would be available online.
But Cr Halstead said this information did not answer his question.
The mine’s impact on water was again the main concern when both Hume Coal and Coal Free Southern Highlands (CFSH) made public presentations at the council chambers.
The presentation on June 28 was the first time Hume Coal addressed councillors with members of the public present.
Hume Coal spokesman Ben Fitzsimmons said the mine would not be a negative development for the Southern Highlands.
“It’s 110 hectares. We’re not wiping out the entire landscape,” he said.
“The groundwater will fully recover post-mine. We understand the climate in the Southern Highlands and have designed the project accordingly.”
However, councillors and CFSH president Peter Martin raised concerns that if approved, the mine could contaminate the Sydney water catchment.
Mr Fitzsimmons highlighted the social and economic benefits the mine could bring to the shire.
He said mines in the Hunter and central west regions had not had adverse impacts on tourism and the two industries had managed to co-exist.
Mr Martin said while there could well be economic benefits to the Highlands community, they were still concerned about the economics of the project itself and its overall viability.
Hume Coal’s EIS said noise and air pollution from the mine would not have a noticeable effect for residents but several options would be available to mitigate any potential issues.
Mr Martin said without data from several properties they did not have access to, Hume Coal could not fully understand the geological structure.
He and technical adviser Alan Lindsay said with so many questions still unanswered, Hume Coal should not be allowed to build a mine before the issues were addressed.
“The way it’s going the project manager is likely to end up in jail for manslaughter. The risk is people are going to be killed in a mine that’s built like this.”
However, Hume Coal project director Grieg Duncan rejected the claim.
“Mr Martin is clearly out of touch with the modern underground coal industry and the substantial improvements in Australian health and safety standards in underground coal mining,” he said.
“His claims regarding rogue mining equipment clearly ignores, or worse still is ignorant of, the physical realities of the equipment involved or the mining process employed.”
Mr Fitzsimmons urged councillors to consider the benefits the mine could bring to local businesses by “harnessing local experience” and attracting more families to the area.
The EIS public exhibition period finished closed on June 30.