As the green group-targeted projects have clocked up more than 25 objections, their fate will be determined by the state’s Planning Assessment Commission.
A planning department spokesman declined to forecast how long that process could take to International Coal News.
About 10 months ago the department recommended against the previous plans for the near-Lithgow operations under Coalpac’s consolidation project – with Coalpac going into voluntary administration in the week that followed.
The previous plans would have extended mining into Ben Bullen State Forest areas by up to 21 years and the resulting disturbance footprint was too close to Pagoda rock formations the department wanted to protect.
“The two projects are around 150 hectares in size combined, compared to the 800 hectare proposal which we knocked back last year,” the department said on Thursday.
The department also said the new plans would create a 300m buffer zone to any “larger rock formations” while the CCP sought to mine within 50m of the rare Pagodas.
Recommendations for strict blasting techniques were also made in relation to an Aboriginal rock art site in the project, with the department also calling for no highwall mining to take place within 20m of either side of this site’s associated cave.
The two projects, with the reduced scale versions submitted by Coalpac’s administrator in April, are expected to create up to 80 jobs, generate $29 million of state government royalties and provide cheap thermal coal to the Energy Australia power stations.
The production rate will remain at 2.2 million tonnes run of mine across both the operations while the rejected CCP aimed for up to 3.5Mtpa.
Keith Muir, of the Colong Wilderness Foundation, was not pleased with the outcome and told the ABC the PAC will probably rubber stamp the department’s decision.
"All I read at this moment is an approval to continue mining the valuable landscape that should be reserved in a park," he reportedly said.
"This area is irreplaceable and needs to be protected."