With the state Coalition poised for a landslide victory in the election later this month, there is still mystery around the possible limitations to longwall mining which could be imposed when the Dharawal State Conservation Area becomes a national park.
BHP Billiton subsidiary Illawarra Coal has long held Consolidated Coal Lease 724, which stretches over a large part of the Dharawal SCA, while its CCL 767 covers a very small section of that land.
On the weekend the Coalition announced an environmental package of more than $100 million, but just $1 million is slated for the proposed Dharawal National Park.
Climate change and environmental sustainability shadow minister Catherine Cusack told the Campbelltown-Macarthur Advertiser this initial funding would go to safe access, maps and measures to stop illegal trailbike riders in the park.
Other “ideas” included a ranger station, walkways, viewing platforms and an education facility, she reportedly said.
But whether underground mining will be prevented in a national park is debatable as underground uranium mining has continued for many years at the Jabiluka mine in the Northern Territory, which is surrounded by the World Heritage-listed Kakudu National Park.
Illawarra Coal revised its Bulli seams operations project for its Appin and West Cliff longwall mines last year, eliminating any proposed underground mining near the Dharawal State Conservation Area.
The revisions removed 97 million tonnes of mineable coal reserves from the previous plans of the project.
Illawarra Coal president Colin Bloomfield previously told the Illawarra Mercury the company had committed to doing research to allow mining in the Dharawal State Conservation Area that would preserve its sensitive nature and enable responsible extraction of the coking coal reserves.
The possibilities of mining in the area are expected to become more evident after industry talks are held with the new state government.