The culturally significant Bulga Bora Ground and adjoining cultural landscape situated on lands owned by Coal & Allied would be protected, under an extension application for an existing Coal & Allied mine.
A 500 ha Wollombi Brook Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Conservation Area is proposed to permanently protect Aboriginal heritage and biodiversity values, as part of an application to extend the operation of the Warkworth mine near Singleton by ten years.
Coal & Allied recognises the Wanaruah/Wonnarua people as traditional owners of the Upper Hunter Valley.
General Manager Operations of Mount Thorley Warkworth mine, Cam Halfpenny, said the proposal was the result of several years of ongoing dialogue with a Cultural Heritage Working Group, which includes all registered Aboriginal stakeholders in the Upper Hunter Valley.
"Coal and Allied is committed to active, meaningful and transparent engagement with the Aboriginal community in all of its projects and operations," said Mr Halfpenny.
"This commitment is clearly demonstrated by the proposed Wollombi Brook Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Conservation Area, which would see Coal and Allied forgo access to the development of not insignificant coal reserves.
"The proposed conservation area is part of a package of potential mitigation options which aim to minimise any potential environmental and cultural heritage impacts of the mining extension."
Under the proposal, an Aboriginal Heritage Agreement or Accord would be established to deliver long-term protection to the significant cultural places in the area generally and improve Aboriginal access to land.
"This process would aim to enhance cultural and social cohesion within the Upper Hunter Valley Aboriginal community, promoting intergenerational equity," said Mr Halfpenny
"The Bulga Bora Ground is outside of the proposed mine extension area, straddling land owned by Coal and Allied and another mining company.
"The site is of great cultural significance to Aboriginal people of the Upper Hunter Valley and a known location of important traditional ceremonial activity.
"The Singleton Times Newsletter reported a Bora ceremony occurred in 1852 involving as many as 600 Aboriginal people from across the region, and the Australian Museum recognised the sites' scientific significance early in the last century.
"The proposed conservation area is based on recent assessments conducted by the Cultural Heritage Working Group, which have confirmed the location of the Bora ground with much greater certainty."
The proposed Aboriginal Heritage Agreement or Accord includes:
- Permanent protection of the Conservation Area from mining and associated development disturbance
- Strictly controlled non-access zones and protocols around culturally sensitive areas
- Areas for use by Aboriginal people for cultural and community purposes
- Active cultural heritage and landscape management, including rehabilitation of vegetation
- Support including training and employment development opportunities to promote Aboriginal involvement in cultural heritage and environmental management activities
- Investigation of additional areas of Coal and Allied owned land for inclusion in the Conservation Area and consideration for establishing further Conservation Areas.
- Wider in situ management of other cultural heritage sites in consultation with the Cultural Heritage Working Group
- Resourcing of cultural and oral history recording by Aboriginal community members to ensure the security of threatened cultural and historical information.
The Wollombi Brook Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Conservation Area would be co-managed by the Cultural Heritage Working Group, in collaboration with Coal and Allied.
"A key focus of the proposed Agreement or Accord is the development of an Aboriginal community controlled governance structure through consultation over time," said Mr Halfpenny.
"The intention is this will eventually not only manage the proposed Wollombi Brook Aboriginal Conservation Area but also other important areas in the longer term, delivering real intergenerational benefits."
The proposed Warkworth mine extension is within the footprint of the existing mining lease and on land owned by the company, well east of the Wollombi Brook.
The proposed extension would create an estimated 150 additional full time equivalent jobs on average, up to the current consent period of 2021. It would provide the security of long term employment through 950 full time equivalent jobs on average from 2022 to 2031.
Public comment can be submitted to the NSW Department of Planning until 15 June. Coal & Allied will be required to consider submissions and respond to the Department, after which time the state and federal government will assess and decide on the proposal.
Coal & Allied's Environmental Assessment for the Warkworth Mine Extension is available to view at www.planning.nsw.gov.au and www.coalandallied.com.au
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