On the face of it a regional council selling an asset for $27.5 million appears to be a godsend. But this is no ordinary asset – it’s a road that runs right through the middle of a multi-billion dollar open cut coal mine owned by the Chinese miner Yancoal .
We are talking about Wallaby Scrub Road that links the villages Bulga and Warkworth, it may only be a few kilometres in length but its significance far outweighs its size.
Its closure will enable the expansion of the Warkworth mine to go ahead as approved and in so doing substantially increase the net worth of Yancoal’s Mount Thorley Warkworth operations.
This is an operation that producers, according to its critics, in excess of one billion dollars worth of coal each year.
The mine is expected to produce those yearly billions for the nearly two decades of the mine’s life.
So on that measure alone the $27.5m for the road, that makes this all possible, looks like peanuts.
That is the opinion of the main group that has fought this project for years Bulga Milbrodale Progress Association.
Its president John Krey was shocked when told of the amount Council agreed to sell the road for saying they should have asked for a minimum of $100m.
Given the likely income thanks to the road’s closure many would agree with his assessment.
But another question remains unanswered should we be selling the asset in the first place?
The State’s Land and Environment Court said no and that decision was upheld in the NSW Supreme Court on appeal.
One would have thought that was the end of the matter and this road, originally built by convict labour in the 1830s, would be preserved in perpetuity. It is part of our heritage it is used by an estimated 1000 vehicles each day.
Now it looks like our heritage will be lost due the power of coal mining and the acquiesce of our governments both at a state and local level.
And it won’t only be the road that is lost you would have to wonder if Bulga will survive as the huge Warkworth open cut works its way towards the village. Also at risk is remnants of the critically endangered Warkworth Sands Woodlands that are about to be threatened by coal production.