Originally published as a letter in the Singleton Argus on 12 December 2014.
Last Wednesday, the Upper Hunter Mining Dialogue’s third annual meeting was held in Muswellbrook. It was attended by more than 80 people from mining, government and the community.
The meeting was excellent. Not only did it provide ample opportunity to consider the many projects underway through the Dialogue and others by government, but it also encouraged other issues and ideas to be booked for future attention.
The Dialogue was initiated by the NSW Minerals Council in July 2011 in recognition of strong community concern about environmental and social consequences of coal mining. That was a truly remarkable event, because all three parties sat down together for the first time to identify the issues and begin to look for ways of improving them.
Since then, four joint working groups – water, land, air quality and social – have been working on the issues, with considerable success. A major water study is underway, cattle production on revegetated land is being measured, many things have been done to reduce mine-related emissions into the air, and housing and infrastructural concerns are better understood.
These are all very significant achievements, but even more so is the fact that community, mining and government are doing this together. The level of trust that now underpins these collaborations was unthinkable only a few years ago.
I will be considered naïve by some, but I believe the Minerals Council should be commended for its initiative and leadership of the Dialogue. It has also allowed a model to develop which has potential for other communities concerned to alleviate unwanted effects of mining.
Dr John Drinan
Singleton Shire Healthy Environment Group