In 2008 Nicole Kidman and her country music star husband, Keith Urban, snapped up Bunya Hill, a 45-hectare cattle stud with a magnificent 1878 Georgian mansion.
Keith Urban, Chris Hartcher, Tim Frost, Nicole Kidman, Pru Goward...more, Woosang Kim, Mike Cunnion, Augustus Loftus
Coal mine anxiety for Nicole Kidman's Sutton Forest property
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Actor Nicole Kidman’s $6.5 million Sutton Forest country retreat will soon have a coal exploration test bore on its front perimeter – and another out the back – after the Cockatoo Coal company secured permission for 120 drill holes for its vast Southern Highlands exploration project.
Kidman is among the 424 land owners in the approved 115-square-kilometre exploration area who were recently advised as to where the holes will be drilled. Some now fear that the potential mining will not only destroy the peace of the area but also contaminate underground water reserves.
In 2008 Nicole Kidman and her country music star husband, Keith Urban, snapped up Bunya Hill, a 45-hectare cattle stud with a magnificent 1878 Georgian mansion, thinking they would be allowed at enjoy the home in peace.
With wide sandstone verandas, pressed-metal ceilings, a carved cedar staircase and 10 marble fireplaces, it has the proportions and details that made it worthy to be leased as a vice-regal rural retreat for Lord Augustus Loftus, a governor of NSW in the colonial 1880s.
Now it has been caught up in a coal mining battle, with 2,500 locals recently telling the South Korean ambassador, Dr Woosang Kim, that there will be considerable and vocal opposition to any mining by the venture partners leading South Korean steel manufacturer POSCO and its Australian partner, Cockatoo Coal. The coal seam that POSCO and Cockatoo plan to extract lies below a vital aquifer, an important water resource for residents.
Exploration authorisations in NSW do not permit mining, but exploration is the method for gathering information about the size, quality and location of the coal seam as a prelude to whether it can be economically extracted.
Drilling of the exploration holes for the project will require an area of 25 metres by 25 metres. Holes will be drilled in cleared areas wherever possible, and land will be fully rehabilitated on completion, according to the company website.
The miners have faced strong community opposition since in mid-2010, when the Southern Highlands Coal Action Group was formed. The community group, now called “Shoo Cockatoo” has held a series of public meetings in the Southern Highlands and has also sought the support of local politicians, including Goulburn MP Pru Goward and Wingecarribee Shire Council.
Southern Highlands Coal Action Group co-ordinator Tim Frost has been advising landowners to lock the mining company representatives out and says he is not aware of any agreeing to access so far.
SHCAG had a meeting with new Resources and Energy Minister Chris Hartcher on the Coalition Government's new Strategic Regional Land Use policy in Sydney earlier this month, which was organised by Goward.
But the coal action group weren't the only visitors to Hartcher's office, with POSCO also visiting the Macquarie Street offices.
The community’s concerns also revolve around future mining, including subsidence damage, dust and noise from surface facilities, changes to the character of the area and property values.
Landowners fear that property values may have fallen 30% given buyer hestitation at buying while doubt remains over the prospect of mining.
The company believes there is a perception among its opponents that delaying the exploration program will stop any future mining proposal.
But the drill timeline has been recently brought forward after the timely receipt of all necessary approvals from the NSW Government and the engagement of a local drilling contractor to undertake the work, project manager Mike Cunnion said recently.