FARMERS around the Vickery mine have tentatively welcomed Whitehaven’s decision to move the mine's expansion away from the Namoi River.
In response to community concern, the boundary of the proposed expansion has been moved two kilometres away from the river, as opposed to a few hundred metres, with the removal of the Blue Vale section of the project.
The project’s close proximity to the river was a major concern for the local farming community, due to the potential pollution risk.
Boggabri Farming and Community Group spokesman Davids Watt said the announcement was “good news”, however without seeing the finer details of the plans, it was difficult to give it the group’s final tick of approval.
“It’s a step in the right direction, let’s put it that way,” Mr Watt said.
“I’ve got a few concerns about the process as a whole. There was no discussion about this with the Vickery Community Consultation Committee. Throughout the whole process we’ve been left in the dark.
“But I don’t want to put any negatives on it. We certainly welcome the decision to remove the Blue Vale pit.”
Mr Watt thanked Barwon MP Kevin Humphries for the pressure he put on Whitehaven to change the plan.
“The way he stood up for us, he was a big part of the withdrawal,” Mr Watt said.
“For him to go in to bat for us against the mine, when so many of his colleagues are pro-mining, was huge.”
While not anti-mining, Mr Humphries was strongly opposed to the original Vickery expansion plans, and he held several meetings with local landholders, Whitehaven officials and government departments.
“Everyone was patient and kept their heads cool, which is why we got a very good result,” he said.
“I used to live in the area, so I know the landholders aren’t anti-mining. But the issue of the mine being adjacent to the river was obviously cause for concern.
“Whitehaven’s commitment to the area is a good one and they listened to community leaders. It obviously means they’re here for the long haul. This decision will hold them in very good stead in the long term.”
Whitehaven Coal CEO Paul Flynn said all the studies showed Blue Vale could have been mined safely, but hoped its removal would allay community concerns.
“Co-existence occasionally means compromise,” Mr Flynn said.