Anglo American, horse breeders fight over mine expansion

Anglo American, horse breeders fight over mine expansion

Miners, horse breeders fight over Hunter. (Courtesy of Tourism New South Wales)

In a new attack to the Australian mining industry, already being blamed for the potential destruction of the Great Barrier Reef among other evils, Anglo American (LON:AAL) is facing fresh accusations of risking the future of profitable stud farms and wineries.

The company’s proposed expansion of the Drayton South mine, in the Hunter Valley, was recommended for approval last month, despite a study by an independent Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) saying it would have negative impacts on neighbouring thoroughbred studs.

The New South Wales Department of Planning suggested the mine’s authorization after finding biodiversity, heritage, land and water impacts were ‘‘unlikely to be significant and would be suitably mitigated’’

Anglo American has said Drayton South will extend the life of the existing mine and maintain nearly 500 workers employed. The open pit mine would produce 7 million tonnes of coal a year and, according to the company, contribute $33 million (A$35m) in royalties annually to the government.

Local worries

But locals fear the project may have major consequences in the same way Rio Tinto’s Bengalla mine is said to have ruined the wine industry in the 1990s.

Last year a NSW Land and Environment Court turned down Rio’s Warkworth coal mine expansion even though the company had already received government approvals to proceed. The miner lost another related battle in April, as authorities said the pit expansion would wreck nearby communities.

Australia’s coal industry is struggling with a supply of the commodity and China’s cooling economic growth. Over 11,000 coal mining jobs have been lost since late last year as giants such as Rio Tinto itself, BHP Billiton (ASX: BHP), Glencore (LON: GLEN) and Brazil’s Vale (NYSE:VALE) have been cutting costs and closing down non-core divisions.

The Hunter Valley has become a centre of tensions as of late with the community widely divided up on the several coal mines and other projects planned in the region.