Breeza landholders have been left furious after the Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) gave the Shenhua mine project a conditional green light by declaring it approvable.
The decision comes after a two-day PAC hearing at Gunnedah in June, where there were emotional pleas from landholders who believe the open-cut mine would damage the fertile black soil plains and underground water resources.
Landholders have been fighting the proposal for several years and say this is another major blow.
“There’s no faith in the system,” sixth generation Breeza farmer Sam Clift said.
“The government wants to mine so they’re going to let it go ahead no matter what.”
The PAC declared the mine project “approvable” after finding the less fertile higher ground above the Liverpool Plains should be mined without significant impacts to the agricultural productivity of the Liverpool Plains.
Minister for Agriculture and Member for New England Barnaby Joyce said in Gunnedah on Friday he did not believe there should be a mine on the “iconic agricultural land” of Breeza Plains.
“This licence was approved by a minister who was corrupt – Ian Macdonald – and we are trying to sweep up after him.”
Mr Joyce said people needed to lobby the people who would ultimately make the decision, NSW Premier Mike Baird and Minister for Resources and Energy Anthony Roberts.
“People in Gunnedah are right across this issue, they need to increase the profile of the issue and take it to the next level.”
What has really raised the ire of Breeza landholders who are against the project is the PAC’s comments on water data.
It still approved the project, despite recommending that further water modelling be carried out by the Chinese miner to resolve uncertainties.
Concerns about water were also raised by the independent Gateway Panel earlier this year.
“Given the critical importance of the region’s water resources to maintaining strong agricultural production, the commission is convinced that the uncertainties identified by Dr Mackie [water expert ] need to be resolved prior to any determination of this application,” the PAC report said.
Breeza farmer John Lyle said the miner has already had several chances with its modelling and it will keep “bowling you over until they get a win”.
“There’s holes everywhere,” Mr Lyle said.
“It does amaze me that it should be approved because they’ve got a lot of work to do.”
Mr Lyle said much of the farming community was fed up with the whole process, which had gone on and on for many years.
“We’re virtually fighting for our existance.”
Sam Clift agreed that the company was being given too many chances with its water data, claiming there was no “three strikes and you’re out.”
Mr Clift’s property is right in the heart of the mine site and the dust and noise zone.
Sam and his parents, Tommy and George Clift however, refuse to sell up like many around them have, but says eventually they will be forced out.
“We’ll just get too much dust,” he said.
“We won’t be able to stay here.”
Sam believes there are different rules for mining companies.
“In the past, the government wouldn’t let us clear the land because they regarded it as a recharge zone for underground aquifers.
“Now they’re going to whack a mine on top of it and they don’t seem to worry about it anymore.”
It’s understood NSW Farmers will meet with senior ministers to express disappointment over the Shenhua PAC report and lack of protection for farmers.
Breeza Station owner Andrew Pursehouse has warned locals will embark on the “biggest ever” protests in Australian history unless the project is scrapped.
“Farmers are not going to stand for this,” he said.
“You’re going to see civil disobedience, the biggest ever in Australia.
“(The PAC was) out of time so what they’ve agreed is the mine can go ahead, subject to the hydrology being done.”