Tinkler’s past rushes back

Past: Nathan Tinkler’s past has come back to haunt him as he plans an open cut mine at the mothballed Dartbrook underground mine.NATHAN Tinkler’s planfor a confidential meeting to discuss his proposed Dartbrook mine have ended with a polite no from Muswellbrook mayor Martin Rush, and abuse from the man called the Boganaire.

Mr Tinkler wrote a “private and confidential” letterto Mr Rush, a barrister, onDecember 29seeking a meeting“before public comments are made and relationships are strained before they are built, as I have seen happen so often in the past”.

Mr Rush declined, in part because he represented apprentices in a pay dispute with Mr Tinkler 15 years earlier and “formed a view at that time about Mr Tinkler’s character” thatmade a meeting inappropriate, he said in a statement.

Mr Tinkler was advised the council would assess any application for the controversial open cut mine on the mothballed Dartbrook underground mine site on its merits.

In a text message to the Herald after the December 29 letterwas released under freedom of information legislation, Mr Tinkler denied having apprentices and blasted Mr Rush, saying: “You don’t often hear comments as stupid and arrogant as that from a local mayor.”

There was “a lot of water under that bridge” from 15 years ago when he was 24, Mr Tinkler said.

He did not believe Mr Rush’s response “reflects the community he represents”.

“He is their (sic) to serve his community not run a personal agenda,”Mr Tinkler said.

Communication between the two men is made public after the release of documents showing Mr Tinkler offered less than $15,000 to settle $50 million in debts relating to his failed vision for a Newcastle coal loader. It also comes a day after the Herald revealed the tax office is chasing Buildev founder Darren Williams for a $900,000 debt Mr Williams says should be paid by Mr Tinkler.

In MrTinkler’s December 29letter to Mr Rush, written the day he astounded hiscreditors by announcing plansto buy Anglo American’s Dartbrook mine, he described it as a “low cost sustainable operation for decades to come as a 5 million tonnes per annum open cut operation”.

“With all infrastructure in place it will require low capital costs to begin mining and needs to only run through a permitting process for the open cut mine to be put into operation,” he wrote.

In his statement to the Herald Mr Rush joined Upper Hunter MP Michael Johnsen and Cessnock MP Clayton Barr in criticising Mr Tinkler’s failure to acknowledge the trail of destruction in the Hunter from his failed business interests, some of which have left creditors with as little as three cents in the dollar.

“Speaking personally, I think it’s fair to say there are a substantial number of people in the community who have been financially hurt by Mr Tinkler’s past business ventures,” Mr Rush said.

“There will be grave concerns about his company’s capacity to meet the rehabilitation liability of the present Dartbrook underground coal mine. The actual rehabilitation liability is likely to be many times greater than the amount held in rehabilitation bonds by the State Government.

“There are many people particularly concerned about the interaction between underground workings and the Hunter River.”

The concerns centred on the future of the four kilometre long Hunter Tunnel beneath the riverand whether it would be rehabilitated to prevent toxic mine workings to interact with alluvium and the Hunter River, Mr Rush said.

In a television interview earlier this month Mr Tinkler said there were “no future liabilities” at Dartbrook.

Mr Johnsen did not respond to a question about whether he had received an invitation fromMr Tinkler for a “confidential” meeting. After Mr Tinkler announced his plans Mr Johnsen said he should pay back money he owes to people and “concentrate on righting the wrongs” rather than consider a new venture.

Mr Bedggood, whose shire appears set to carry the bulk of an open cut Dartbrook proposal, said he had not received an invitation from Mr Tinkler. Mr Bedggood said his council opposed underground and open cut coal mining in the shire, and the prospect of an open cut Dartbrook mine was “distressing”.

Mr Tinkler declined a face-to-face interview with the Herald.

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