The application to extend and re-open Invincible Mine has once again divided opinion about how natural resources are used to benefit the township.
The Department of Planning and the Environment has recommended the project go ahead, however, with 299 out of 856 submissions to the department objecting to the project, a Planning Assessment Commission meeting will be held in Lithgow on Wednesday, November 29.
A trio of environmental organisations who have consistently opposed open-cut mining in the region called the ‘Gardens of Stone’ Alliance, which includes the Lithgow Environment Group, has organised a rally on Sunday to promote the conservation of an additional 39,000 hectares of bushland, including the unique pagoda rock formations of the Ben Bullen State Forest, that currently exist outside of national parkland.
The Planning Assessment Commission has previously stated the rock formations in the forest, some of which are proximate to the mines, are of “high conservation value”.
"The Lithgow community, west of Sydney, already suffers above average unemployment as the result of the closure of the Wallerawang Power Station and a global shift away from coal," the Garden of Stone Alliance spokesperson, Dr Stephen Allen said.
"Meanwhile, the neighbouring Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area sees more than $150 million directly injected into the local economy each year by visitors, resulting in strong, sustainable jobs growth.
“There is absolutely no reason the Lithgow region can't be part of this thanks to the amazing array of natural beauty and significant ecology on the community's doorstep.”
The Cullen Bullen Progress Association, however, has submitted to the department in support of the Invincible Mine. They hope the re-opening of a mine will revive their town.
Secretary of the association Barbara Millen says Cullen Bullen has been “on the way to nothing” since Invincible Colliery and Cullen Valley Mine were placed into care and maintenance in 2013.
She said the mines’ closure in 2013 was a “disaster”.
“We really need it. We’ve got nothing here now only a school. No shops, no work here for anyone in the town,” she said.
“It’s been a mining town for 38 years. It’s just getting like a ghost town, if they don’t let this mine open then that’s what is going to happen.”
This year Cullen Bullen’s hotel, which also included the town’s only store, shut down.
“We need employment, maybe we’ll get a shop or a post office,” Ms Millen said.
In 2014 Planning Assessment Commission noted both the mines had ceased operations due to exhaustion of coal or due to economic factors. An application lodged by Coalpac to extend the mine’s disturbance area by 794 hectares in 2010 was finally rejected by PAC because of conservation concerns in 2014.
The current proposal will expand Invincible Mine approximately 50 hectares southward to include the Lithgow Coal Seam. Manildra Group (who owns the mine) said the extension would bring 35 full-time jobs to the area over an eight-year mine life.
Manildra Group’s subsidiary Castlereagh Coal currently has coal exploration licences for 1256 hectares of land in the area listed under the name ‘Shoalhaven Coal’.
In a media release dated from 2016 the company said the exploration licenses at Cullen Valley, were “not associated with Castlereagh Coal’s plans for future mining as part of the Southern Extension Project at Invincible”.
- The Planning Assessment Commission meeting will be held at 9.30am at the Lithgow Workies Club on Wednesday, November 29. To register to speak at the event call 9383 2112 before 1pm on November 27.