On Monday 6 July 2015, The Hon Ian Macfarlane, MP visited the location of the proposed Watermark Mine.
At the same time the Minister met and had discussions with the Vice President of the Shenhua Group, Mr Wang Pingang. Mr Wang was the Shenhua official who first alerted Shenhua to the opportunity at Watermark back in 2008 and he has followed the project with great interest since then.
Minister Macfarlane, in his Industry and Science portfolio, has also followed the project with great interest because of the project's importance to the development of industry in regional Australia, the importance of the project to Australian-Chinese relationship and because of the very detailed scientific work that has gone into the development of the project's Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).
The Minister had studied the EIS and related scientific studies, the multiple and numerous Scientific Peer Reviews and wanted to see the site and to be sure that he could match the science with the reality on site. Ian Macfarlane's background, as an experienced farmer from a farming family meant he wanted to see, with his own eyes, the nature of the land upon which the mine would be constructed.
He spent some considerable time questioning the Shenhua Watermark team to satisfy himself as to the validity of the Project's claims in relation to water, agricultural land and social benefits including benefits to the local Indigenous Community.
Shenhua Group provided a detailed presentation and site inspection which confirmed to Minister Macfarlane that the mine would not damage local agricultural production or farming irrigation aquifers.
Having seen the the land to be mined first hand, it was clear to the former farmer and Minister that the reality was that the mine site was on hilly grazing country and not the the black soil prime agricultural land of the nearby plain.
Shenhua Watermark staff also outlined the extent of the work to be undertaken to ensure that the mine design facilitated compliance with the Conditions of Consent ensuring that high quality Management Plans were developed.
The Minister said that an approval of the mine by Environment Minister Hunt would enable Shenhua to progress the mine for the benefit of the local community.
The visit was both significant and successful for both The Minister and Shenhua.
Mr Liu Xiang, Mr Wang Pingang, Mr Mark Howes and the Hon Ian Macfarlane MP inspecting the Shenhua Watermark site.