A HIGHLY visible police presence marked the beginning of an Independent Planning Commission hearing into Kepco’s proposed Bylong Valley coal mine on Wednesday morning.
As many as 300 people sat witness to the hearing.
Despite a small, orderly protest before it started, the hearing was largely uneventful to the midday break.
There were 63 speakers registered and the hearing was expected to continue to 7.30pm Wednesday.
Kepco’s chief executive Jongseop Lee first addressed the hearing, saying Kepco was responsible for producing 80 per cent of South Korea’s electricity.
He said the coal available in the Bylong Valley was ideally suited to high efficiency, low emission electricity production and that was why Kepco had decided to invest.
He said South Korea was increasingly pursuing renewable energy sources, but coal was needed in the meantime.
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Kepco’s chief operating officer Bill Vatovec told the hearing any proposal to mine on natural sequence farming landmark property “Tarwyn Park” had been abandoned.
Mr Vatovec said considerable revisions to the miner’s plan had reduced waste by 23 per cent and would provide a net benefit to NSW of $300 million during its 25-year lifetime.
Bylong Valley resident Travis Rixon spoke in support of the miner, claiming most of the people objecting to the proposal were from either Sydney or Newcastle and did not care about the locals’ economic survival.
Bylong Valley farmer, Robin Hawkins, said she was representing her 94-year-old mother, Pamela, who could not attend.
Ms Hawkins said groundwater in the valley was precarious and the mine would make it worse.
“We cannot irrigate our lucerne paddocks now,” she said. Ms Hawkins said pandering to miners that promised jobs in the coal industry was short-sighted.
Robbin Binks told the hearing her grandfather had settled in the valley in the early 1900s.
“Bylong is still the centre of my universe,” she said, but lamented that a once vibrant community was now on its knees – noting the closure of Bylong school and loss of sporting teams. She blamed mining.
Kandos Public School principal Phillip Morley said the region was feeling the effects of economic contraction, as major employers had closed their doors.
He said he had been in the region 28 years and had watched it slide backwards until its economic viability was today seriously challenged.
“I would like to say, if approved, Kepco should work closely with the community, we must ensure we have a viable community in the future – we are at a tipping point.”