NSW govt gives coal industry environmental tick

A NEW South Wales government audit of the state’s mining industry’s safety and environmental practices has given the industry a clean bill of health, with only 11 serious breaches from six mines out of a total of 1355 conditions checked.

Lou Caruana
NSW govt gives coal industry environmental tick

The audit, which was conducted in September and October last year, found the breaches were considered low risk and included failure to properly rehabilitate a site and suspected dumping of drilling mud.

NSW Minister for Resources and Energy Chris Hartcher, who has been under pressure by rural interests to tighten up approvals for coal mines in the state, said the results proved that "robust systems are in place to alert authorities if any breach occurs".

Chief executive of the NSW Minerals Council Stephen Galilee told the SMHthe audit was "extensive" and showed the industry usually met its obligations.

The audit is timely as a proposed $123 million expansion and consolidation of two open-cut and high wall coal mines near Cullen Bullen in central-western NSW are placed on public exhibition today by the NSW Department of Planning and Infrastructure.

The proponent, Coalpac, is seeking planning approval for the Coalpac consolidation project, located about 25km northwest of Lithgow.

The department issued director-general’s requirements in December 2010, outlining issues the proponent needed to address in its environmental assessment.

Deputy director-general Richard Pearson said the company’s first environmental assessment, submitted in July 2011, did not adequately address the project’s potential impacts on biodiversity, natural, historic and Aboriginal cultural heritage, noise, air quality and groundwater.

“The proponent must ensure the environmental assessment contains adequate information to enable the public to comment on the proposal, before the department will allow it to be exhibited.

“After liaising with the department on a number of issues, the proponent submitted a revised EA in mid-January, which has now been deemed adequate,” Pearson said.

“After the Easter public holidays, we will be giving the community an extended eight-week period in which to have their say, given the significant scale of the proposal, the strong public interest in the proposal and the overlap with the April school holidays.”

The environmental assessment will be on public exhibition until June 1.

The proposal includes expanding open cut and high wall mining areas, to extract an additional 108 million tonnes of coal and upgrading and building associated infrastructure to process 3.5Mtpa of coal and transport coal off the site by road and rail.

The proposal includes a biodiversity offset strategy, which would potentially allocate more than 1755 hectares of land as biodiversity offsets.

Coalpac is proposing to employ up to 120 operational staff and additional contractors for the 21 year life of the project.


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