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Victory on the Plains: NSW announces licence buyback

In a victory for the Liverpool Plains community, the NSW Government announced yesterday that it will buy back a controversial exploration licence granted to BHP Billiton in 2006.

The licence, originally sold to BHP for $100 million, will be bought back with interest – making the total outlay around $220 million in today’s dollars.

The Liverpool Plains are recognised as some of Australia’s most productive agricultural land, and local farmers and interest groups have waged a long campaign to prevent coal mining on the plains – citing concerns over water and interference with farming systems.

NSW Deputy Premier and Leader of The Nationals, Troy Grant, told the ABC the Government has listened to those local concerns.

“The answer is pretty simple: the stress, pressures and justifications for this project to continue on some of our richest agricultural land in the Liverpool Plains just wasn't sustainable.

“It should be returned back to agricultural enterprise. The manner in which we do that hasn't been determined, but that's the obvious purpose.

Locals taking part in a tractor convoy to protest the mine last year (Photo KateAusburn, source: Flickr)

The state’s peak farm body, NSW Farmers, immediately congratulated the Government via Twitter for protecting the prime agricultural land of the Liverpool Plains.

Liverpool Plains Farmer and head of the Caroona Coal Action Group, Tim Duddy said common sense had prevailed.

“It's a project that should never have happened, the licences should never have been issued.

“The community can now get on with pursuing agriculture,” Mr Duddy said.

For many however the fight for the plains does not end here. Many residents have been quick to point out the ongoing concerns which exist over the neighboring Shenhua Watermark mine proposal and plans to extract coal seam gas in the area.

While locals may be relieved by this latest victory – calls for a designated exclusion zone on the Liverpool Plains are likely to intensify in the wake of the Government’s decision.

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