Studs ready to scale Everest to stop mine, again
As horseracing fans gear up for the $10 million Everest race in Sydney tomorrow, with a third of the runners bred from Coolmore stud stallions, the NSW government is once again considering approving a mine that Coolmore says would threaten its viability.
NSW Resources Minister Don Harwin is considering an application to renew an exploratory mining licence over the Drayton South mine site that is said to threaten the welfare of the Coolmore and Darley studs, which produce some of the country’s best racehorses.
Of the Everest runners, Tulip was bred and raised at Coolmore to resident stallion Pierro, and Coolmore stallions produced other fancied runners Chautauqua, English and Deploy. Triple crown-winning stallion American Pharoah is currently at stud there.
New consideration of a mine at Drayton South comes after four rejections by the Planning Assess- ment Commission to similar proposals from the company that used to own the mine, to extend it near the horse studs.
With the exploration licence having expired on the site and former owner Anglo having sold it to Malabar Coal conditional on renewal and transfer of the licence, Malabar has finally moved and applied for renewal with Mr Harwin. The Australian understands Mr Harwin is considering whether to grant the application.
If approval is granted, any mine would need to be granted planning approval to operate — something previous owners of the mine were unable to achieve on previous occasions.
Malabar Coal has begun a public-relations campaign in the area, advertising in the Hunter media, saying “Malabar Coal has committed to developing an underground-only mine at EL 5460, previously known as Drayton South. We understand that if a coal mine development is to be successful, it must co-exist with local industries and gain its social
licence from the community,” the company says. “We believe our proposal can deliver significant benefits to the local community without disrupting other industries or land uses.
“In May we announced the acquisition of the Drayton Mine and the exploration licence … for the project previously known as Drayton South.”
But Hunter Thoroughbred Breeders Association president Cameron Collins said yesterday the government needed to show leadership.
“Four Independent Planning Assessment Commissions have ruled out mining on the Drayton South mine,” he said. “The government needs to end the uncertainty caused by endless mining applications which are subjecting our industry to a death by a thousand cuts. By agreeing to renew the Drayton South exploration licence, the government will reignite community conflict on this issue and signal that our industry is dispensable, collateral damage to the ongoing onslaught of mining in the Hunter.”
Dr Collins said the govern- ment had a wealth of scientific and expert information before it demonstrating that coal mining and thoroughbred breeding were incompatible land uses. “If the government wants to keep Australia’s premier equine industry in the Hunter it should not renew this exploration licence, act immediately to amend the State Environmental Planning Policy to prohibit any form of mining at Drayton South and move quickly to protect the entire Equine Critical Industry Cluster,” he said.
Coolmore is home to some of Australia’s best thoroughbred stock and has a key breeding program.
Tulip, a more than $51 longshot, is owned by Coolmore and was transported to Sydney yesterday ahead of the Everest.
Coolmore chief Tom Magnier said: “Tulip was actually foaled and raised at Coolmore Stud. She is a high-class race filly and the team at Lindsay Park put forward a compelling case to say that she should take her place.”
Tom Dabernig, who with David and Ben Hayes runs Lind- say Park Racing, said Tulip had a light weight on her side in tomorrow’s race. “She’s had a faultless preparation leading into the race,” he said. “Coolmore owns her and bred her. They were the slot holders. It worked out that she had the right sort of form and had been working really well.”
Mr Dabernig’s wife Cassi said the Magniers were some of their closest friends. “Tulip is particularly close to my heart because of that,” she said.
The Malabar coal advertisement said the company had committed to developing a vastly different, underground-only project compared with previous proposals. This meant there was no need for blasting, reducing dust and noise “and any impact on equine health or nearby properties”. The mine would also “not be visible” from horse studs and would “not mine underneath the local horse studs”, it said.
Malabar Coal chief executive Wayne Seabrook told ABC radio this week: “We made the announcement back in May we’ll be acquiring the Drayton assets from Anglo. One of the key things we’re waiting for is the renewal of the exploration licence at Drayton.” He said that written into the company’s exploration licence application was that there was “no intention of ever putting open-cut (mining) in there”.
Coolmore business manager Paddy Power said: “For over six years the Drayton South site has been the subject of various mine applications, all of which have been refused by the Planning Assessment Commission.
“In fact in February of this year, the fourth PAC to examine the proposal found that the ‘the potential negative impacts on equine health and operations to be credible and persuasive’. The commission found that these impacts would likely be detrimental to the operations of Coolmore and Godolphin with flow-on economic impacts in the locality and within the equine CIC.
“In light of these findings, Coolmore, Godolphin and the HTBA (breeders association) called on the government to put an end to the uncertainty generated by proposals on this site and amend the SEPP to preclude all mining on the site.”
He said that was in February, but the community had no greater security now than six years ago.
Everest runner Tulip, bred at the Coolmore stud, with trainer Tom Dabernig’s wife Cassi shortly before leaving for Sydney for tomorrow’s race
American Pharoah at Coolmore yesterday