The New South Wales Deputy Premier, Paul Toole, says he does not support the creation of new coal exploration zones in the state’s central west, and will recommend his government does not either.

Key points:

  • NSW Deputy Premier Paul Toole says he does not support coal exploration proposal
  • Only 15 public submissions out of more than 2500 do support it
  • Coal from new mines was earmarked for export to Asian countries

The Hawkins and Rumker areas, north of Rylstone, have been earmarked by the state government for new coal mines. 

About 30,000 hectares of land has been identified as potentially suitable for exploration

Public consultation on the proposal began in June, before Mr Toole took over from the former Nationals leader, John Barilaro.

More than 2500 public submissions were received, of which just 15 were supportive of the plan to create new exploration zones.

It comes amid plans to halve carbon emissions in NSW by 2030. 

A map of the central west with the areas outlined in red.

The proposal would see areas in the NSW central west opened for tenders for coal exploration.(Supplied: NSW Government)

Today, Mr Toole told a budget estimates hearing at state parliament he would ask the cabinet not to support the project.

Community opposition to the project is strong, and Greens MP Cate Faehrmann said a ute muster protest had been planned.

Ms Faehrmann asked Mr Toole if he had planned to announce his opposition to the proposal before today’s hearing.

“I formed a view before budget estimates in relation to that particular project,” he responded.

People standing in front of a hall with the sign

There is significant community opposition to the proposal, with the hearing told a protest is planned for this weekend.(ABC Central West: Hugh Hogan)

Mr Toole described the area, some of which was in his electorate of Bathurst, as “beautiful”, and said he regularly drove through it.

“This still fits in line with our government’s commitment to future of coal statement — acknowledging that coal needs to be put into those areas that are appropriate.

Aimed for export

The Hawkins and Rumker areas are two of eight zones earmarked by the state government which could potentially become new coal mines. 

If the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment’s (DPIE) Advisory Board gave the proposal the green light, Mr Toole could ask companies to tender for rights to discover how resource-rich the area was. 

The zones are the first to go through the ‘strategic coal release areas’ which aims to ensure the fossil fuel industry continues to provide jobs to regional areas. 

The plan by the NSW Government said the state “is well placed to meet the demand for coal from countries at our doorstep” but the global phasing out of the resource “will take some decades to complete”. 

The coal eventually mined from the new release zones was tipped for export markets, primarily Asian countries such as China and South Korea. 

Janet Walk, feeding her horse

Horse trainer and landowner Janet Walk feared her property would become a “gaping big black hole” which was being mined for coal. (ABC Central West: Xanthe Gregory)

Opponents celebrate 

Janet Walk has opposed the move which could have seen her land on the outskirts of Rylstone, a town of about 650, undermined for coal. 

“For farmers, tourism operators, restaurants, vineyards, olive growers – it’s wonderful news, a load off our minds,” Ms Walk said. 

She said the state government’s sales pitch that it would attract jobs to the region divided the community. 

“If our government was serious about jobs in the regions, they’d be copping onto Twiggy Forrest’s green hydrogen and renewables,” she said. 

Other “strategic coal release zones” remain on the cards in NSW, including the nearby Ganguddy-Kelgoola zone and areas of significant Aboriginal heritage sites.

“Ever since RioTinto blew up Juukan George, it’s made a lot of people look at our Aboriginal culture heritage as very significant,” she said. 

“It should be treasured.”

Posted , updated 

NSW Deputy Premier Paul Toole to call on colleagues to rule out new coal exploration zones
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