Mining giant Anglo American will shut down a Hunter Valley coal mine so workers can attend a meeting to decide whether the mine is allowed to open a new pit close to horse studs.
Hundreds of people are expected to descend on the town of Denman on Thursday when the independent NSW Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) begins two days of hearings of people supporting and opposing the Drayton South coal mine proposal.
Nearly 120 people are registered to speak for and against the mine.
The high-profile Coolmore and Darley thoroughbred studs, local winemakers and farmers are bitterly opposed to the Drayton South project.
The mine was rejected by the PAC in October, 2014, on the grounds the 100 million tonne mine was not in the public interest and a threat to the thoroughbred and wine industries.
Drayton South’s owner, Anglo American, in May put forward a revised project to take 75 million tonnes.
The NSW Department of Planning subsequently found that blasting, air quality and water impacts would not adversely affect horses at the studs and in August recommended approval.
The project has now gone to the PAC for independent review.
An Anglo American spokesman said the Drayton South mine would be closed to allow workers to attend the meeting.
“The workers are very worried and want to show how concerned they are,” the spokesman said.
“If this doesn’t get up they are not going to have a job.”
Anglo American says 500 jobs will be lost if the mine is not approved.
The Hunter Thoroughbred Breeders Association slammed the Department of Planning after it recommended approval of the new project, saying the department had approved the previous plan rejected by the PAC in 2014.
“Each and every reason the previous mine was refused remains valid today,” HTBA president Cameron Collins said.