Hundreds of people, including miners released from their shift, came to hear Leader of the NSW Opposition Lukey Foley speak on the future of Springvale Mine at a community meeting held outside the mine’s entrance in Wallerawang on the morning of Monday, October 9.
Mr Foley promised Lithgow residents that he would ensure the mine’s approval to continue operations until 2028 was “set in stone”.
“What will happen to the people of this state if the Mt Piper Power Station runs out of its coal supply?” he said.
“The lights will go out. This is far bigger than a Lithgow issue. It’s a crisis for employment in Lithgow, but it’s a crisis for energy security in NSW.”
The meeting coincided with MP Paul Toole’s announcement in Bathurst that he will introduce legislation to “secure” Springvale Mine in parliament, both addresses taking place at 10am on Monday morning.
Mr Foley said news of his meeting with the Lithgow community, announced last Friday, had forced the government’s hand.
“I was invited on Friday to come here this morning. I gladly accepted the invitation. The premier was in Bathurst yesterday and refused to visit the people of Lithgow.
“If it’s taken my visit to get the government to pay this attention, that’s a good thing. And I’ll hold her [Premier Gladys Berejiklian] to account this week.
“The parliament meets tomorrow and there needs to be a solution found this week to ensure Springvale stays open, coal miners stay in work, and Lithgow sleeps soundly for the first time in a long time and the lights are left on.”
Mr Foley said Labor would scrutinize the legislation proposed by MP Paul Toole.
“We’re certainly in favor of legislation to fix this problem that ensures Springvale keeps operating, ensures its future until 2028 and ensures the company stays good on its commitment to build a water treatment plant, because you can’t have rivers being polluted by coal mines in this day and age.”
“We can’t have a band aid solution of the government coming up with a six or 12 month state of execution. It will need to be an extension of operation for Springvale until 2028 that’ll give the company and EnergyAustralia the security they need to stump up the water treatment plant.”
Springvale miners Eric Palmer and Matt Carr welcomed Mr Foley’s presence in Wallerawang.
“It’s good that he stopped by and that we know there is at least someone else supporting us,” Mr Carr said.
“We’re a bit nervous. We talk about it, it’s on everyone’s minds.”
The wife of a miner who has worked at Springvale for nine years, and who asked not to be named, said the uncertainty impacted more than the miners.
“It’s a flow on effect that affects the wives of miners, their kids, even local schools – not just local businesses,” she said.
“If it closed we’d leave town for sure.”
Mr Foley said that while Labor supports an increase in renewable energy generation in NSW, “you can’t shut down coal fired power today”.
“Mt Piper is the newest and cleanest coal fire power station in NSW, it would be nuts for it to close now because it runs out of coal supply...The state would be buggered without it,” he said.
“I’m prepared to guarantee the future of Springvale Mine, that’s good news for Centennial Coal and EnergyAustralia. In return I’d ask for them to move heaven and earth to deliver that water treatment plant as quickly as possible.”