Thursday, 19 April 2018

Time for crackdown on Valley mines following dusty blast

BY LAUREN FREEMANTLE

Hunter Valley winemakers are furious at the owner of two of the region's biggest mines, following a blast on Friday which sent pollution over pastures.

Local landholders say just before midday, Yancoal conducted a planned blast at the Mount Thorley Warkworth mine, which sent a plume of thick orange dust flying through the air and onto grape crops.

Tony Bainton of Bainton Family wines said it's an ongoing issue which residents shouldn't have to grapple with anymore.

"It's about the health of residents living in the Valley," Mr Bainton said, "the mines don't seem to have any respect for the residents living around them. "

He said state government measures to bring Yancoal in line with licence regulations have so far proven ineffective. 

"Even when they do catch them out, they fine them such a small amount of money...it's pocket money to them and they don't care."

Local landholders have written to the Department of Planning, asking for Yancoal to be investigated and have its licence suspended until they demonstrate they can operate without causing pollution.

Georgina Woods from Lock the Gate Alliance is supporting the plea, saying its time to enforce protections to safeguard the vital Hunter wine industry.

"There have been many days over the last few months," she said, "dozens of days where air quality in that part of the Hunter Valley has breached national standards."

"That's not a good look for one of our key tourism industries," Ms Woods continued, "it's up to the state government to get control of the mines and ensure they're not impacting on the surrounding industry."

Lock the Gate believe a key way to restore the balance is to create a no-go buffer zone to protect the vineyards and horse farms.

"There is a need for an exclusion zone around the strategic farmland that was mapped for the wine and horse industries," said Georgina Woods, "we can't allow the mines to continue coming closer and closer."
An orange plume lingers in the air following a blast at Yancoal, 11:53am Friday March 13.  





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