2 July 2020

Opinion: Final chance to get behind Whitehaven’s Vickery Extension Project

This comment piece from Paul Flynn, Managing Director and CEO of Whitehaven Coal, appeared in the Northern Daily Leader.

Many in the local community will have heard the name ‘Vickery’ and, with the NSW Independent Planning Commission set to decide its fate, it’s a name you are probably hearing more and more.

So what is it? For us at Whitehaven, Vickery is our flagship development project in the region.

It means more jobs, more investment and a stronger future for us all. It means thriving local businesses, bustling main streets, busy playgrounds and a stronger sense of community.

As we navigate our way through the economic and other challenges brought about by COVID-19, it offers a pathway to greater prosperity for this part of the world and greater control over where we want to go and how we get there.

We have worked hard to keep everyone updated about Vickery but the length of time it takes to approve new mining projects can make communications about these types of projects a challenge.

That’s why I wanted to take the time to write this open letter to provide you with an update on the project as the proposal moves through the final stages of the planning process.

The Vickery Extension Project is a proposal to construct a new open-cut coal mine and on-site infrastructure about 25 kilometres north of Gunnedah. It will build upon and improve an already approved mine, on an old mine site previously run by Coal and Allied (then part of Rio Tinto).

We already have an approval to construct a new mine there but we are seeking a fresh approval so we can run a slightly larger, more efficient operation with more direct benefits to the community.

We know that some people in the community are anxious about properly managing the impacts of mining.

This is why Vickery has a comprehensive suite of management measures and draft conditions attached to it that will ensure that impacts are appropriately avoided, minimised or offset.

For example, we know some have expressed concerns about Vickery’s proximity to the Namoi River. That’s why we moved the Project further away from the Namoi by voluntarily removing the Blue Vale pit from the mining footprint, even though all of the independent technical data clearly showed it could be safely mined (as it had been previously).

Others have called for the nearby Kurrumbede Homestead to be protected and that’s exactly what we’re doing. We have committed to preserving the Homestead and are spending $500,000 on restoring its gardens. In time, we will open Kurrumbede for community access.

Beyond that there are a range of other more fundamental benefits the project will bring including 500 construction jobs, 450 operational jobs and around 170 new jobs in local supplier businesses.

These jobs will inject an additional $271 million in wages into the local economy – benefiting business owners and families right across the region.

Over its 25-year life, Vickery will contribute $1.2 billion in net benefits to NSW – money that will help fund schools, hospitals, roads and other state government priorities.

Community members can also be assured that the lengthy NSW Government approvals process reflects the fact Vickery has been subjected to an incredibly thorough technical assessment process by the Government.

Following a lengthy public display period, public meetings and an exhaustive review by the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment – the planning process has found that the project is in the public interest and can proceed.

However, there is another chance to share your views on this important project. The Independent Planning Commission will be conducting Public Hearings – online due to COVID-19 restrictions – to allow community members to share their views.

Many people, myself included, are scheduled to address the Commission directly, but you can still lodge a written submission and the IPC has confirmed that these will be given as much weight as in-person or online testimony.

I encourage everyone to take part by lodging a submission online at or by listening in on the day at

Paul Flynn is the Managing Director and CEO of Whitehaven Coal.

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