Mt Arthur extension gets strict DGRs

THE New South Wales department of planning director general has issued strict requirements for BHP Billiton’s proposed modification of its Mount Arthur coal project, which includes the expansion of the existing open cut mine to extract an additional 128 million tonnes of thermal coal.
Mt Arthur extension gets strict DGRs Mt Arthur extension gets strict DGRs Mt Arthur extension gets strict DGRs Mt Arthur extension gets strict DGRs Mt Arthur extension gets strict DGRs

An aerial view of the Mt Arthur Coal operation

Lou Caruana

The company is proposing to extend the life of the mine by four years to 2026, and wants to use the existing conveyor corridor for overburden emplacement, the duplication of the existing rail loop, and an increase in the maximum number of train movements from 12 to 19 a day.

It is also applying for the relocation of conveyor infrastructure, upgrade of the explosives storage facilities, construction of additional offices and control room, and the extension to the run-of-mine coal stockpile.

Located in the Hunter Valley near Muswellbrook, the Mt Arthur development nestles farming, horse breeding and wine growing properties.

“The environmental assessment must address the following specific matters,” the director general said.

“Agricultural and other land resources – including an Agricultural lmpact Statement – that includes a specific focused assessment of the impacts of the proposal on strategic agricultural land, having regard to the draft gateway criteria in the draft Upper Hunter Strategic Regional Land Use Plan.

“The EA must also include a detailed description and assessment of the potential impacts on soils and land capability (including salinisation and contamination); landforms and topography, including steep slopes; and land use, including agricultural, forestry, conservation and recreational use, with particular attention on the local viticulture and equine industries.”

The EA must also address water resources and include detailed assessment of potential impacts on the quality and quantity of existing surface and ground water resources, including detailed modelling of potential groundwater impacts, including any potential impacts on the alluvial aquifers of the Hunter River.

BHP Billiton’s open cut coal mine at Mt Arthur is the largest individual coal production site in the NSW Hunter Valley.

Mt Arthur coal currently produces around 20Mtpa of ROM coal each year for local and international customers in the energy sector, with the mine seeking to expand coal production to 24Mtpa.

In September 2010 the NSW minister for planning approved an open cut mine at Mt Arthur at a mining rate of 32 million tonnes per annum. In 2008, underground mining at a rate of 8Mpta was approved. The combined extraction rate was capped at 36Mtpa.

Mt Arthur coal is part of BHP Billiton’s NSW Energy Coal which also manages the Caroona Coal Project in the Gunnedah Basin and BHP Billiton’s 35% shareholding in the Newcastle Coal Infrastructure Group.