State’s new mine policy unveiled

THE NSW Government has removed a controversial mining policy provision that opened the door to Rio Tinto’s third attempt to expand the Mount Thorley Warkworth mine.

The amended State Environmental Planning Policy known as the Mining SEPP will come into effect on Wednesday, and ensure the economic, environmental and social impacts of mine projects are appropriately considered, Planning Minister Rob Stokes said.

It replaces amendments in 2013 that gave priority consideration to the economic benefits of mine projects after the Mount Thorley Warkworth proposal was rejected by two courts because of social and environmental impacts.

“Mining plays an important role in the NSW economy, however we must ensure that our policies reflect the importance of balance in assessing the likely impacts of mining developments,” Mr Stokes said.

“A crucial pillar of our planning system is that decision makers consider environmental impacts on both the natural and built environments, and social and economic impacts in their assessment of development applications.’’

More than 2400 public submissions on the proposed change were received, with 98 per cent supporting it.

A report on the change will be published online on Wednesday along with public submissions.

The Nature Conservation Council of NSW welcomed the change.

“Premier Mike Baird and Planning Minister Rob Stokes deserve credit for acknowledging that the amendments introduced by the disgraced former Minister Chris Hartcher were unacceptable because they put industry interests ahead of local communities and the environment,” council chief executive Kate Smolski said.

“Repealing this clause is an important step towards restoring balance to the planning system, and marks a significant victory for communities campaigning against it.’’

While the Nature Conservation Council welcomed the decision, ‘‘it only takes us back to where we were two years ago, when the community was expressing many substantial concerns about the approval and assessment process for mining projects’’.

‘‘The real test will be whether or not the Planning Assessment Commission takes this change into account when determining the Mount Thorley Warkworth mine and other mining projects now in the planning system.”

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