The department said the normal 30-day exhibition period was doubled for the controversial project after the minister asked for extra time to allow members of the community to provide feedback.
“The minister has also asked the Planning Assessment Commission [PAC] to conduct an independent review of the project, including public hearings,” it said.
The proponent must now respond to the issues raised as the department assesses the submissions.
In its review, the PAC is to consider the merits of the project as a whole, paying particular attention to noise and air quality, traffic, biodiversity, contamination and any other potentially significant impacts.
“The PAC review will take place once Port Waratah has lodged its response to submissions to ensure all relevant information is available to the review,” the department said.
“The Department of Planning and Infrastructure will then finalise its merit assessment of the project taking into consideration the issues raised during exhibition and the PAC’s report.
“Following the department’s assessment, the project will then be determined by the independent PAC, consisting of different members from those who conducted the review.”
On the issue of broader dust management, the department has a compliance office in the Upper Hunter which is there specifically to investigate breaches of consent conditions by mines, including in relation to dust, it said.
The office conducted more than 150 compliance inspections and audits and more than 100 enforcement actions on a range of issues during 2011-12.
“If a mine is observed to be breaching its consent conditions by producing excessive dust, and we either observe this or receive a complaint, we will ensure it is brought into line,” it said.