Company wants assurance Fingal will stay open

THE Fingal Primary School has found an unusual supporter in the company proposing to reopen a disused coalmine near the town.

Break O'Day Mayor Sarah Schmerl said yesterday that the Victorian-based Hardrock Coal Mining company had already had discussions with the Education Department to seek assurances that the Fingal school would remain open.

The school has been threatened with closure or merger with another bigger institution several times including this year soon after Education Minister Nick McKim was appointed.

He called off planned closures after facing intensive community campaigns.

Ms Schmerl said that the Hardrock company did not want fly-in, fly-out workers for its proposed $40 million redevelopment of the coalmine adjacent to the Cornwall Coal Company's operation on the outskirts of Fingal.

Hardrock managing director Craig Astill said this week that the new coalmine planned to provide an extra 650 jobs in the North when fully operational by 2014.

``They want families to come and establish themselves here so they need to know the school is here _ and health services like those at St Marys Hospital,'' Ms Schmerl said.

She said that the council was excited about the project.

It expected a development application to be submitted before Christmas after working with the proponents for several months on its plans.

``This will be the biggest development that this region has seen in a very long time and we are keen to work with the company to see it come to fruition,'' she said.

Tasports chief executive Paul Weedon said that the company had signed an agreement with Hardrock to assess a proposal to export up to one million tonnes of coal each year out of Bell bay. ``While the project is in its early days, coal exports through Bell Bay would be a very welcome boost to the port and the region,'' Mr Weedon said.

Hardrock has spent more than 12 months in pre-planning with the state government, Tasports, Tasrail and local government as well as conducting core drilling on a 10 square kilometre site at the disused underground coalmine.

It wants to export to Asian markets and plans to rail the coal to Bell Bay to ship overseas.