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BHP Billiton today announced new initiatives for the Caroona Coal Project to ensure protection of the prime agricultural land on the floodplain and deep alluvial irrigation aquifers in the Liverpool Plains from long wall and open cut mining.

"BHP Billiton and the NSW Government are committed to ensuring the protection of key agricultural land and the region's water supply, through an amendment to the existing Exploration Licence 6505 that governs the Caroona Coal Project," BHP Billiton President, Energy Coal, Jimmy Wilson said.

In line with its overriding commitment to environmental responsibility and sustainable development, BHP Billiton undertook a review of its exploration and development plans and provided the Minister with recommendations to help address community concerns.

Today the Government announced amendments to the Special Conditions of BHP Billiton's Exploration Licence, preventing BHP Billiton from applying for a mining lease that includes any of the following in the Caroona Exploration Licence Area:

  • long wall mining underneath the deep alluvial irrigation aquifers;
  • long wall mining underneath the floodplain; and
  • open cut mining on the floodplain.

"BHP Billiton has made this public commitment previously, and now it is written in stone - no mining lease application can consider long wall mining under the deep alluvial aquifers or the floodplains," Mr Wilson said.

BHP Billiton also announced:

  • its commitment to provide a share of the funding for the Government's Independent Water Study currently being implemented; and
  • to incorporate the findings of the Water Study as part of any environmental assessment it undertakes.

"Local landholders have called for a regional groundwater study and have committed publicly to drop their blockade when the study is commissioned. BHP Billiton supports the completion of this Study and commits to considering its outcomes when completed. BHP Billiton is already collecting data that we will provide to this independent Water Study.

"We know we will be judged by what we do, not by what we say and we are committed to fulfilling our obligations in relation to the protection of the environment through our activities. We have always said that we would listen to and work with the community, and today's announcement clearly shows that we are prepared to take appropriate action to address genuine concerns," Mr Wilson said.

"This strikes a balance between protecting the valuable agricultural land and the potential of thousands of jobs that mining could bring to the region."

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