The approval of the massive mineral mine in Lue, near Mudgee has stunned many and sent ripples of fear through the local community. The Bowdens Silver Project is an open cut silver, lead and zinc mine that poses significant human and environmental health risks and will operate for around 23 years, although the proponent has emphasised there is more that could be mined in the area.
Greens MP and spokesperson for Mining and Environment Sue Higginson said, “I’m calling on the new Minister for Planning to meet with the Lue community and the independent experts and take swift action to review this project and commit to reinstate merits appeal rights for this alarming project.
“The approval of this project is distressing. The Independent Planning Commission (IPC) has approved the mine with a condition that the local community can undertake regular blood testing for lead contamination and it’s located just 2km from a school. The IPC has determined that the risks posed by the mine can be minimised, mitigated, compensated or offset at a future time through management plans but the community and independent experts say the engineering is not right and the risks to community and environmental health are too high.
“This is evidence that the planning system is broken. It pits mining giants against communities on a far from level playing field. The community has nowhere to go to test and challenge these findings by the IPC. The previous Government took away their appeal rights to the Land and Environment Court by referring this project to a public hearing. They recommended this project go ahead and steamrolled it through the IPC over the community and now the community is effectively silenced. We desperately need to reform the system to give communities a real voice in critical decisions that put them at risk. The community should have full rights to challenge such a harmful development in the Land and Environment Court.
“We now have an opportunity under the new Labor Government to get to work to reform our planning system to ensure this project approval doesn’t set a dangerous precedent for future projects on the state’s path to an apparent mineral rich future. This should start immediately with calling this project in for review and reinstalling merits appeal rights to the community.
“We know that when the evidence of impacts is tested as thoroughly as possible and community and expert voices are in the centre of decision making we make better decisions. Back in 2012 ICAC recommended that merit appeals to the Land and Environment Court of planning decisions be expanded, but the former Government ignored this advice and in fact they further limited the scope of merits reviews so as not to apply to mining decisions.
“Pretending that the planning system is fair and independent is a legacy of the former government. I am calling on the new Government to work to improve the integrity and accountability of the planning system and protect communities from situations like we now have in Lue.
“We can and must do better.” Ms Higginson said.
For media comment contact: Sue Higginson on 0428 227 363