A group of landholders, who are concerned about the proposed expansion of the Vickery coal mine, have formed a group to try and raise awareness about the potential environmental impacts associated with the project and the effect it could have on the wider agricultural community.
Around 20 farmers close to the mine site met last week to form the ‘Boggabri Farming and Community Group’.
It follows plans by Whitehaven Coal to increase extraction to 10mtpa, north of Gunnedah, and create a new open cut pit believed to be within approximately 500m of the Namoi River.
The group met last Wednesday to discuss environmental concerns, share knowledge about the project and form a set of objectives.
Andrew Watson, a farmer whose property is within four kilometres of the site, said the group doesn’t want to be controversial, but concerns about the environment and the Namoi River need to be discussed and addressed by government as well as Whitehaven.
“We understand the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) hasn’t been finalised yet but we would highlight on the surface we’ve got some grave concerns about mining that close to the river,” Mr Watson said.
“We just think there certainly needs to be fairly tight regulations surrounding this mine. We’d like some robust regulation regarding dust, noise and traffic which is going to look after the local environment and local community.”
Another local landholder, Grant McIlveen, said establishing a group is a positive step forward.
"It's great that we have formed this group and that it's no longer individual people. We can now all work together."
There are 30 farmers believed to be affected within six kilometres of the mine site – two of which are expected to be majorly impacted.
One of them is James Barlow who is a third-generation farmer.
The Barlows are in the “affectation zone” and there are three residences on the property ranging from 700m to two kilometres from the mine site. James’ family has been on the 880 hectare property for 50 years and he has recently developed the place with centre pivots to make it a fully modernised efficient irrigation farm.
Whitehaven is expected to submit its EIS in the next six months and has said the project will be the “subject of detailed, independent impact assessments across a whole range of areas, including groundwater and surface water modelling”.