C&A spokesperson Fiona Nicholls told ILN the company had been granted consent for the HVO South project and community consultation would start shortly.
The project is no small undertaking as it will consolidate 25 separate development consents into one approval under Part 3A of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act.
The recovery of up to 84 million tonnes of additional coal is planned, with Nicholls saying it would primarily come from deeper seams within areas already disturbed by mining.
The project will allow for the continuation of mining in the Cheshunt, Riverview and Lemington pits, with the total mine life of the operation to be extended for another 21 years at a rate of up to 16Mt per annum of run-of-mine coal.
C&A will also make infrastructure upgrades and modifications as part of the project, aiming to achieve operational efficiencies between HVO North and South.
On the implementation memorandum agreement for Newcastle’s port signed in April, Nicholls said it was intended to enshrine the state government’s plans for long-term contracts to underpin port investment, triggers to build new capacity on demand and, lastly, the proposal for the fourth terminal to be managed by Port Waratah Coal Services.
“Coal & Allied has lobbied for a long time on the need for long-term contracts to underpin port investment,” Nicholls said.
“The work to date represents a significant step forward in resolving the many inefficiencies that have plagued the Hunter Valley Coal Chain for so long. It is important that this progress is maintained.”
On the Rudd government’s Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, Nicholls said it would be a factor in the investment decisions for any future developments.
“Our fundamental concern is that under the current Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme design, coal has been excluded as an emission-intense, trade-exposed industry, despite it meeting the criteria for admission.
“We are not asking for special treatment.
“We simply want coal to be treated the same as every other industry. Coal is trade exposed, we therefore want relief on what we’ll have to pay, just as other trade-exposed industries will.”
Another factor is none other than the ongoing global financial crisis, with Nicholls saying C&A had to realign its near-term growth plans.
“While our long-term aims have not changed, we have revised our short-term outlook to ensure that we are positioned to bring growth projects onboard when market conditions improve.
“Meanwhile, the delivery of port and rail infrastructure and recovery in economic growth remain key considerations for the future.”
The agreement was signed by operators Newcastle Coal Infrastructure Group and Port Waratah Coal Services on behalf of 14 Hunter Valley producers.
Coal & Allied is 76% owned by Rio Tinto.