Have you heard about Wollar

wollar-wilpinjong-coal-vs-community.jpg

There’s a place up near the Goulburn River National Park, where the Wilpinjong coal mine was established alongside the village of Wollar about 10 years ago. That photo up there was taken at sunset one day, from a spot near the gates to the mine.

The Wilpinjong coal mine is operated by Peabody, the world's largest private-sector coal company. On Peabody's website the Wilpinjong coal mine is described as being "40 km northeast of Mudgee". The much closer village of Wollar, which is literally just around the corner, isn't mentioned. And that is fitting, I suppose, given Wollar has been just about wiped off the map at this point. It turns out life is pretty tough when your neighbour is a series of open-cut coal pits.

The way it seems to work is this: a mining company seeks approval for a new coal mine. They tell the government's planning bodies the impacts on locals and the environment will be minimal and manageable but that the boost to jobs and economy will be big, so the government gives the mining company the green light to go ahead.

The mining company digs up all of the coal that the approval will let them, and then they seek permission for an expansion of land to mine from and an extension of time in which to mine it. It's just a modest expansion — just one more pit, just another few years — so the planners give the mining company the go ahead. After all, rejecting it now would mean people lose actual jobs.

And what about locals? Well, they're already living with the impacts of the existing coal mine, so what difference does just a little more for just a little longer make? And with this, the mining company keeps coming back to the government for expansion after expansion until no locals are left to object.

Next time someone tells you that mining is good for local communities and local economies, ask if they've heard of Wollar.

Kate