Questions over Drayton South mine adviser

Questions over Drayton South mine adviser
By Zoe Vicarage 5:15PM 21 SEP 2016

OPPONENTS of the Drayton South mine in Australia have claimed that an independent adviser used by the New South Wales Department of Planning and Environment to approve plans for the project has previously worked with Anglo American, the company proposing the mine.

Jeffrey Bennett, a professor at the Australian National University, has previously worked with Robert Gillespie, who wrote an original economic assessment for the mine proponent.

Coolmore and Darley have battled for a number of years to stop an open-cut mine opening near their premises in the Hunter Valley.

Bennett was selected as the peer review for latest application and was tasked with "critically evaluating the expert economic advice" of both Anglo American and the thoroughbred industry. He also assessed the "application of economic theories for the project and broader agricultural sector."

His findings indicated that the "studs' operational potential will not be compromised by the Drayton South operation" and that "the physical off-site effects of the project (like dust and noise) have been acknowledged as within accepted guidelines".

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The final decision on the Drayton South Coal Project will be made by the independent Planning Assessment Commission (PAC).

A spokesperson for the Department defended the decision to appoint Bennett and said: "Jeffrey Bennett has been a longstanding professor at the Australian National University. This role has required him to oversee a considerable number of students and PhD candidates.

"Prior to commencing his peer review, Professor Bennett disclosed to the Department that he has previously taught Robert Gillespie, the author of the original economic assessment that accompanied the EIS.

"Professor Bennett disclosed that he had previously worked with Robert Gillespie in a professional capacity.

"The scope of Professor Bennett's peer review did not include any comprehensive assessment of the Economic Assessment undertaken by Gillespie Economics.

"The peer review related to the economic impacts of the project on the structure and longevity of the thoroughbred industry, and focused on matters raised by two separate economic consultancy firms as per previous response.

"The Department was therefore satisfied that Professor Bennett could undertake a thoroughly professional and impartial peer review.

"Professor Bennett has also been previously been appointed as a member of the independent Planning Assessment Commission."

A source close to Coolmore told The Australian Daily Telegraph: "We are deeply concerned. We will be asking advice review implications of this and options."

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