The New South Wales government announced that tough conditions have been placed on the renewal of two controversial licenses held by BHP Billiton and Shenhua Watermark in the Liverpool Plains region. The licenses expired February this year.
Chris Hatcher, the Resources and Energy Minister, had renewed them but said that the community’s concern over the effect of coal mining on prime agricultural land had been considered and the renewal conditions have been tightened. Mr Hatcher said in a statement that they wanted mining, but they wanted mining on their terms, and their terms were to protect the water, protect the agriculture, protect the environment.
The chairman of Caroona Coal Action Group, Sandy Bloomfield was still deeply concerned about the issue. Bloomfoeld said that renewal on these grounds shows they are not committed to protecting the environment. He added that if BHP had no intention of mining then it should be excised from the license altogether, but it is not and he didn't know if they could trust BHP.
BHP Billiton issued a statement saying that they agreed not to proceed with longwall mining under the floodplains or build an open cut mine in the Caroona exploration license area. The Minister also said that the renewal of the exploration licenses will not automatically lead to the granting of full mining leases.
Premier Barry O'Farrell has pledged support to protect agricultural lands and listen to concerns of farmers about the renewal of coal exploration licenses in the north west of the state. The licence of Shenua Watermark Coal will be subject to tougher conditions and those of Caroona will be maintained to ensure our valuable agricultural and water resources have much greater protection he said.