Coal Mining in the Hunter Valley NSW: Insights from Local Community Member
Posted: 08/13/2012 12:00:00 AM EDT | 0
Hunter Valley Mining Industry Thriving: Coal Mining in the Hunter Valley, NSW
Mining IQ recently Interviewed Eden Anthony, President of the BFWTA in the Hunter Valley about his personal experiences of integrating with the burgeoning Mining Industry in the Hunter Valley and his thoughts for the future.
Please share your role and responsibilities within the Hunter Region, NSW?
As president of the Broke Fordwich Wine and Tourism Association (BFWTA) I head up one the few fully volunteer tourist associations in the Hunter. Our committee are members of the local business community representing wine, accommodation and gourmet food outlets.
Our organisation oversees the running of 3 major events:
A little bit of Italy in Broke, Spirit of the Vine, The Garden Ramble, and we help with the Broke Village Fair.
We also produce a regular full colour guide to the region and run a monthly community market. Finally, the BFWTA works closely with surrounding Hunter regions to promote tourism.
In addition to my role with the BFWTA, I also run a small accommodation business all self-contained house on acres overlooking rural and vineyard views. Two of the houses, Rosamund and Rosa are owned by my wife and I and I manage three others as well as working with other accommodation owners.
Please share / outline your involvement with the mining industry and how it interconnects with the tourism industry that's thriving in the Hunter?
The mining industry provides financial support for all of our events and has worked with the BFWTA on many community projects over the years.
We bought our property and developed it, knowing that the mines were already here (1985)
Then, as today, there was a respect for the way the mines worked with the community, both in the way the mining companies consulted and worked through issues that involved the community as residents and landowners.
How would you describe the relationship between tourism and mining as it currently stands today?
It was accepted within the community that as the local small farms became unprofitable, members of resident families could find well-paid work in the mines and ancillary industries. A comfortable co-existence emerged and became the personality of the relationship between the mining industry and the community.
The Broke Fordwich Winegrowing Sub-region was established in 1997 and even though it covers a relatively small area of the Hunter it encompasses two of the largest mines run by Rio Tinto and Xstrata.
What do you see as the direct benefits of coal mining in the hunter region and is there symbiosis between tourism and mining in the Hunter Valley?
As the tourism industry began to grow from zero businesses in 1985 to over 60 today there was never comment about the effect that mining might or might not make on tourism. It was taken for granted that there would always be a synergy between the vastly dissimilar industries.
However with the advent of stronger coal prices, seams that were deemed uneconomical 10 years ago are now being worked. For the first time since our arrival in the region, some tension has begun to emerge – due to the mines expanding as they reach for more product. As this rush to extract more builds the methodology employed by different mining groups begins to emerge. On the one hand, decisions are being made to dig deeper so as not to expand closer to communities and on the other hand other groups are expanding into historic villages and burgeoning tourism areas.
For the tourism industry, particularly the accommodation providers there is change coming through as the mines increase the number of contracted workers. For a long time the local businesses discussed ways to develop the occupancy rate during the mid-week periods. Weekends for many of them are fairly well booked out but the holy grail of seeing the lights on in the middle of the week is something that has eluded them.
This seems peculiar to boutique businesses and most of the Broke Fordwich businesses are boutique.
Now a growing stream of mine related professionals – specialists in fuel line building, high-voltage electrics, geology etc. – are discovering that for near to the price of a motel room they can get accommodation in self-contained or B&B style venues with in many cases, views over the Hunter vineyards.
All the local accommodation providers are reporting a strong increase in this kind of booking.
How has the community aligned with the mining operations and has a cooperative spirit arisen?
As long as the mining corporations are prepared to continue to stay on watch to ensure that the real value of coal and the intrinsic value of the community are always considered, the relationship should persist in a positive way until the coal gives out.
An example of the ‘pastoral’ care that one mining group has employed was to engage a research group to travel the region interviewing residents. Key questions asked by the community were then converted to titles for information sessions. A recent one addressed the issue of repair and restoration of the landscape and also explained the timeline and process involved in closing the mine down so that the legacy that would always carry that mining company’s name would be one associated with positive respect.
What do you think is around the corner and do you anticipate any challenges?
That is the big question “What are you going to leave us with?”
The same company on another occasion ran a similar session based on expansion. The community in attendance on the night were neighbours to the company’s largest mine and also another mine who had been subject to criticism and protesting by this particular community group.
The presenters were visibly nervous as they gave the session but because they were forthright and clear in explaining the care they were taking towards the community it soon became clear that they had no need to be concerned. In fact much to their obvious surprise, at the end of the session they received a solid round of applause. The difference in dealing with the community shown by two competing mining groups could not be more obvious.
There is a popular activity in the wine region of the Hunter and that is taking a champagne balloon ride. Traditionally this was done in the Pokolbin area only, away from the mines. Now there is a growing tendency for the balloon companies to fly from and over Broke Fordwich.
From that height the passengers can see the beauty and tranquillity of this pretty rural region…and they can also see the massive earthworks of the mines in the distance. Somehow there seems to be an acceptance – perhaps the contrast enhances the beauty of the vines and paddocks below.
Mining IQ thanks Eden for his comments.
Hunterstay Accomodation is an official partner of Mining IQ and their wonderful homely accommodation (we’ve stayed there so we can testify) can be found here: Hunterstay Accommodation or by typing: hunterstay.com.au
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