Despite opposition from the Plains Clan of the Wonnarua People (PCWP) and the New South Wales Heritage Council (NSWHC), NSW Planning has recommended the Swiss multinational corporation Glencore be given approval to expand its Glendell open-cut coal mine at Mount Owen in the Hunter Valley.
Planning NSW referred Glencore’s expansion proposal to the Independent Planning Commission (IPC) on February 22, describing it as “approvable”. This is despite an Aboriginal Heritage protection application to protect massacre sites with the federal government. The NSWHC is warning about irreversible impacts on heritage sites in the Hunter Valley, reminiscent of the Juukan Gorge outrage in Western Australia.
Glencore wants to bulldoze and excavate on sites recording some of the most brutal frontier violence in NSW in the mid-1820s, including a site of a likely massacre.
At the centre of the controversy is the colonial Ravensworth Homestead, which Glencore has proposed to relocate so it can mine the remainder of the former Ravensworth Estate — the PCWP has identified the site as important to preserve as site of colonial violence.
PCWP chairperson Robert Lester wrote in 2020: “The PCWP states that the area in question was and is a landscape that clearly records inland wars waged upon our people covering a large area of the massacre of our people and as such should be treated as a sacred site.”
Lock the Gate Alliance spokesperson Georgina Woods said the IPC’s decision on the mining project, due in 12 weeks, was a “line in the sand” for the Hunter Valley’s past and future.
“The independent Heritage Council warned the government that the harm of this mining project would be irreversible, but these warnings have been ignored,” she said.
“We cannot allow a multinational coal mining company to tear up an irreplaceable site that tells the unique story of the Hunter and its communities which Traditional Owners want to see protected.
“We will never get back what we will lose if we allow Glencore to rip up this heritage in the Hunter Valley and continue its rapacious climate-wrecking coal expansion plans. This is about the Hunter’s past, as well as its future, and we will not stand for it.”
George said Glencore announced a cap on coal production two years ago, claiming to recognise the importance of the Paris climate goals. “The Glendell expansion project shows how hollow Glencore’s climate change commitments are,” she said.
Glencore wants to continue mining coal for a “further 21 years” beyond current approvals.
NSW Greens MP David Shoebridge said coal is in its “dying days” and pointed to Origin Energy’s decision to close Eraring power station earlier than expected. He said the government’s push to approve the mine’s extension was “unconscionable” and said it was “critical” the federal environment minister Sussan Ley listen to the Traditional Owners “to avoid a repeat of the Juukan Gorge destruction”.