“My name is Camryn Jones, I am 11 years old and in Year 6. My dad works at Springvale. It’s so important that I be here today in my opinion, that I had a day off school.”
It may have been unusual for the Planning and Assessment Commission to be addressed by a primary school student, but as the 22nd speaker to address the commission on Wednesday, May 19, the concerns of Camryn Jones echoed the sentiment of the vast majority of local speakers in favour of the approval of a new water treatment facility at Springvale Mine.
“Not approving the water treatment project means families will have to move because there are no jobs in Lithgow. I will have to leave my house, my friends and the school that I love. I understand we should be looking into different ways of generating energy in the future but right now coal power lives on and what gives us power now,” Camryn said.
A pipeline and new water treatment facility at Mount Piper Power Station has been proposed by Centennial Coal and EnergyAustralia in order for Springvale Mine to fulfill water quality conditions for its expansion, granted in October 2015.
The Department of Planning has recommended the project be approved.
While almost all forty speakers who addressed the packed-out Civil Ballroom were also in favor of Centennial Coal and EnergyAustralia’s application, it was clear people still had things to be said about the series of PAC meetings and closures Lithgow’s mine workers have faced over the past four years.
Centennial Coal and EnergyAustralia representatives both reiterated the likelihood of closures if the Springvale Water Treatment Project was not approved.
“As the commission can see from the number of people here today there is real interest in this project. Real people, real concerns and real community,” Centennial Coal CEO Mick Cairney said.
“Our people feel insecure about their jobs and even more so about the industry. We want operational security for our people.”
The eight week closure of Springvale Mine in 2015 due to government deliberations over the renewal of the mine’s license were still a close memory.
“That was a very distressing time for all of us, the workers, the families and the community,” Springvale miner John Tilley said.
“This is the fifth time I’ve had to get up in front of a PAC meeting in support of my job continuing. I’d much rather be underground with 400 metres of NSW above me than be at this dais.
“There is not a great deal that either side can express except there is no more coming back from this. If this is not approved it will be a death warrant for Springvale, Mount Piper and the Lithgow community.”
Councillor and former mayor Maree Statham, whose late husband was a miner, said that if the Springvale closes Lithgow miners will be forced to work elsewhere with impacts on the town and families’ mental health.
“My husband would often come home saying, ‘we're going down the road’, which meant the miners were going to strike for better conditions. But my husband never had to deal with the uncertainty of knowing if he would even have a job, after ‘going down the road’. And jobs are on the line now.”
“The community at present is irate, fed up, and will need to be coping with something more serious than losing work if this is not approved and that’s coping with mental health issues.”
Mayor Stephen Lesslie also expressed his support for the project on behalf of Lithgow City Council.
“Our local government area currently has the highest unemployment rate in the Central West, close to 9 per cent with a youth unemployment rate of close to 14 per cent,” he said.
“Undertake your deliberations with great care, power station and mine employees, their families and our community need support and certainty in what are two vital and very important industries.”
Representatives of Lithgow Workies, the CFMEU, Westfund, Lithgow’s Business Chamber and Black and Gold Motel also spoke in support of the application.
Madi McLean of the Blue Mountains Conservation Society and Keith Muir of the Colong Foundation for Wilderness stated their support of the project, as well as reservations about the continued release of minewater into the water catchment under the development’s request to remove minewater consent conditions until the treatment facility is complete.
More to come.