The NSW government will pay Chinese-owned mining company Shenhua $100m to withdraw from its Watermark coalmine project on the Liverpool Plains, ending a 13-year battle with the region’s farmers. The deputy premier and resources minister, John Barilaro, confirmed the deal on Wednesday that will see Shenhua withdraw its mining lease application and surrender its development consent for the mine. He said the government would cancel the company’s exploration licence and acquire 6,000ha of land with high conservation value for management by the state’s local land services. The decision was welcomed by farmers, traditional owners and environment groups and described as a win for communities that had opposed the project because of the effect it would have had on agricultural land and cultural sites. The future of the coal industry plays a central role in the 22 May Upper Hunter byelection campaign, with Barilaro previously describing it as a “forever” industry. On Wednesday, the government announced it would open up other areas of the state for potential new coalmining, including the Wollar region in the central west. It also announced a $25m per annum “royalties for rejuvenation” fund for parts of the state where the demand for coal has declined, […]

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