In April 2013 the court had overturned a previous approval by the New South Wales Planning Assessment Commission to expand Warkworth.
Rio Tinto submitted a new project plan for consideration after the court of appeal this year rejected the company’s appeal of the April 2013 decision.
The department has now found the new plans to be satisfactory while acknowledging the environmental impacts of the mine need to be carefully managed as it is near residential and winegrowing areas.
"With regard to the potential amenity impacts of the project, the department acknowledges that the noise, air quality, blasting and visual impacts would increase as the mine progresses towards the village of Bulga," the department says of Warkworth.
Rio Tinto Coal Australia managing director Chris Salisbury said the NSW Planning Assessment Commission must now make a final positive determination on the project expansion and secure the employment of the 1300 workers at the mine.
"This mine has been a major part of the Hunter community for more than 30 years and we are seeking approval to continue operating on land it owns and within the footprint of existing mining leases," he said.
Resident of the nearby village of Bulga John Krey told the Newcastle Herald that the
Department of Planning had recommended approval of the mine demonstrated "their utter capture by the mining industry".
"The department has utterly betrayed Bulga, and the public trust, in working closely with Rio Tinto ever since the original expansion project was overturned by the court," he said.