Battle of the Bulga

THE New South Wales Department of Planning and Environment is recommending that Rio Tinto’s 21-year life extension of the Mount Thorley Warkworth coal mining complex be approved without relocating the village of Bulga.
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Mount Thorley Warkworth. Copyright Rio Tinto 2014.

Blair Price

The NSW Planning Assessment Commission said the relocation of the entire village (population about 350) should be given serious consideration on dust and noise-grounds as part of its recommendation for conditional approval of the 21-year Mount Thorley Warkworth life extension in early March.

However, the department did not consider this necessary.

“Our assessment found dust and noise impacts on the village would not be significantly greater than what Bulga is already experiencing,” a Department of Planning and Environment spokesperson said.

“There are a small number of houses where the noise criteria may be exceeded, and so the Department has recommended that these landowners are able to seek further mitigation to their properties from the mine’s operators.”

The Department of Planning and Environment has referred the project back to the Planning Assessment Commission for a final determination.

The NSW Minerals Council noted that about 85% of the 1891 submissions on the Mount Thorley Warkworth extension project during the six-week public exhibition phase were supportive.

“Importantly, around 90% of these supportive submissions were from the Hunter region, demonstrating strong local support for this project and the jobs it provides,” NSW Minerals Council CEO Stephen Galilee said.

The approval of the project is expected to save around 1300 jobs.

Rio had applied to maintain existing production rates of 18 million tonnes per annum run-of-mine from the Warkworth mine and 10Mtpa ROM from the Mount Thorley open cut, with the expansion areas falling on land owned by the mines and within existing mining leases.