WHEN any company is granted a lease to explore for coal they have an obligation to do just that.
Otherwise the exploration licence is given to someone who will.
So Ashton Coal lodge a development application to extend its existing operations again - what they are obliged to do.
They know there is coal there, they know they have the ability to mine it and they are obliged to go through the approval process to mine that coal.
The decision on whether Ashton Coal goes ahead lies in the hands of the state government - as with any mine they are the sole body that can approve or refuse.
This process for the Ashton Coal expansion has carried the people of Camberwell and the mine on a roller coaster journey with the finish line changing moment to moment.
Refusal back in December was made on the information provided to the planning assessment commission.
A few hours after the decision was made, further information became available that now appears so strong, it completely reversed the planning assessment commission’s original decision.
However, NSW Health remains opposed to the project.
There are already repeated exceedances of the 24 hour particulate matter concentration in the air at Camberwell.
NSW Health raised concerns about the health risks for occupants of mine-owned residences in situations where the air quality criteria are predicted to be exceeded.
“Particular concern has been expressed about exposing children to such risks,” the report said.
While the PAC decision states that the Ashton expansion will not increase existing concentration of particulate matter, Singleton has experienced 18 exceedances of national standards for air quality at various locations in the past two weeks.
It is no one mine’s fault and is a combination of factors, including dust from agricultural operations and power station emissions.
It is the cumulative impact that people are concerned about and many believe processes like the PAC, do not consider the overall extent of coalmining in the Upper Hunter.
The argument isn’t about who is producing the dust but how it can be suppressed to a level that everyone can breath easily, regardless of where they work or live.
Some mining operations are going to great lengths to control dust, if everyone did their bit then approvals like Ashton might not be met with such trepidation.