The coal industry has been long recognised by the National Trust as forming part of the heritage landscape of New South Wales. Many historic coal mines and their associated structures and machinery have been listed on the National Trust Register for their historic and scientific values.
Eighty-two coal mining sites in New South Wales are listed on the National Trust’s Industrial Sites List and seventeen sites are listed on the National Trust Register. Coal mining has played a key role in the history of European settlement in Australia and these listings reflect this historical and technological significance.
The National Trust recognises the role that coal mining has played in the history of Australia and its economic significance at the present time. Nonetheless, this industry is well-recognised as having significant and often detrimental side effects.
In the Hunter Valley, seventeen Landscape Conservation Areas were listed on the National Trust Register for their scenic, agricultural, historic and nature conservation significance. Coal mining has threatened the heritage values of a number of these areas. The Trust’s Exeter/Sutton Forest Landscape Conservation Area also contains 43 properties individually listed on the National Trust Register and is also currently under threat from coal mining operations.
In August 2013 the National Trust Board adopted a Policy on the Impacts of Coal Mining. This Policy Statement responded to a 2013 amendment to the Mining State Environmental Planning Policy which gave preference and undue weight to economic factors over environmental protection and social development.
“The National Trust believes that sustainable development goals should be based upon the three equal pillars of 1) environmental protection; 2) social development; and 3) economic development and that the economic pillar must not be treated as paramount, to the detriment of social equity and the safeguarding of our natural world for future generations.
The Trust asserts that, in determining economic significance in regions with existing high environmental heritage values, there needs to be included a consideration of the forecasted economic life of a proposed project and the limited short-term economic value of a proposed mining development needs to be compared with and balanced against the long-term economic values of protecting existing viable rural industries.
The Trust believes that, where certification by the Office of Environment and Heritage is required for the biodiversity impact of a proposed development, certification should also be required for heritage impact on aesthetic, historic, scientific, cultural, social and archaeological values of individual sites and the entire cultural landscape(s) affected by a proposed development.
The Trust seeks to educate the wider community on the environmental heritage values of sites and landscapes affected by the impacts of coal mining.
The National Trust will oppose open-cut coal mining proposals within listed Landscape Conservation Areas or which impact on listed Urban Conservation Areas or significant individually listed items and will oppose long-wall coal mining proposals or those sections of a proposal that have the potential to damage significant surface landscape features or to affect water flow in rivers, creeks or wetlands.
The National Trust will urge the proper rehabilitation of former mining sites while ensuring that mining relics and items of mining heritage are identified, protected and conserved.”
On 7 July 2015 it was announced that a proposed amendment to the Mining State Environmental Planning Policy would “restore the balance between economic and environmental considerations for major mining projects.” The Trust supported the amendment to the Mining SEPP to restore the balance between economic and environmental considerations for major mining projects and commended the NSW Government and the Minister for Planning on the proposed amendment.