What's the plan for Mudgee for the coming decades?

Editorial - Mudgee Guardian 17th October 2019: What will the Mudgee region do after mining?

There's been no doubt that the Mid-Western Regional Council Local Government Area (LGA) has prospered as a result of the presence of the industry in the area.

The NSW Minerals Council's latest annual member company Expenditure Survey, found that the surveyed mining companies spent $283 million in 2017-18, including over $183 million in wages to 1,748 full-time employees in the LGA.

And that's before you unpack the indirect jobs that are created, which is harder to quantify because it's not as straight-forward as just counting contractors and suppliers - retail and other sectors thrive when a major industry thrives.

But nothing lasts forever.

A common theme among proponents of the mine - and of the Minerals Council's crusade against the state planning system - is future employment, particularly in the Rylstone/Kandos area.

However, Bylong has a project life of 25 years - which if they 'assess their options' and manage to get the go-ahead, maybe after five years or so of further wrangling - would only take a currently young person into middle-age. Possibly decades before the current retirement age (provided that's not shifted further in the future).

The Mid-Western Region's existing three mines are currently approved until the mid to late 2030s. And even though extensions being granted in the meantime are likely - all have had approvals within the last few years - again, recent planning decisions should give pause for thought.

In February the Land and Environment Court dismissed an appeal of the rejection of the proposed Rocky Hill coal mine near Gloucester. Like Bylong, a greenfield mine was planned and expected greenhouse gas emissions were considered a factor.

So could mining extensions be the next step to have difficulty getting through the planning process in coming decades? Rix's Creek fiasco aside. Around three-quarters of Australia's coal is exported, so it's not only NSW policies that will have an effect.

Again, the question is 'what will the Mudgee region do after mining?' The answer can't wait 20-30 years.