Australian Securities Exchange-listed Yancoal was formed from the merger of China-owned Yancoal Australia and Australia’s Gloucester Coal.
The company resubmitted its stage 2 planning application to increase open cut run of mine production capacity to 13 million tonnes per annum, with the underground mine expected to reach approximately 4Mtpa of ROM production.
Of particular interest is how the company handles the sensitive area of cumulative assessment for the project.
A cumulative impact assessment was completed as a component of the air quality assessment, taking into consideration the approved activities at both the nearby Ulan and Wilpinjong mines, together with the contribution of other non-modelled mines and dust sources in the area.
“When completing a cumulative impact assessment, it is necessary to use a simplified approach with respect to operations at other mines as the detailed operational plans are not available for use in the dispersion modelling,” Yancoal said in its response to the submissions.
“This approach is standard practice in the assessment of cumulative impacts.
“The predicted impacts using this approach are sufficiently accurate to indicate where the worst cumulative impacts may occur for the purposes of determining approval of a project.
“They are not considered accurate enough to determine the day-to-day cumulative impacts of other operations surrounding the Moolarben coal complex.
“This is due to the fact that when dispersion modelling is completed for an environmental assessment, typical activities over a year are assessed.
“It is not possible to replicate in the assessment precisely what each operation will be doing on a daily basis, or what the exact meteorological conditions will be on any particular day.”
A detailed assessment completed for Camberwell village in the Hunter Valley region of NSW demonstrated that when considering annual average concentrations, the actual cumulative impacts as measured at air quality monitoring locations were lower than predicted through the use of dispersion models, according to the company’s response document.
“This is often because the actual amount of material moved is lower than assumed in the modelling and also because dispersion models are conservative by design,” it said.
When considering the day-to-day cumulative impacts of operations, detailed mine plans of each site’s proposed operations over the short-term needed to be included in a dispersion model to provide greater accuracy in the cumulative impacts, the company said.
Moolarben will prepare a revised air quality and greenhouse gas management plan, which will be prepared in consultation with the Wilpinjong and Ulan coal mines to help ensure ambient air quality monitoring in the region is sufficient to enable the mines to minimise the potential for cumulative adverse impacts at nearby sensitive receivers.
The plan will use a combination of meteorological forecasting, air quality monitoring and may also include dispersion modelling if sufficient data is available.
Moolarben is considered the jewel in the crown of the Yancoal-Gloucester merger.
At full production, the Moolarben coal complex will have the capacity to produce 17Mtpa of ROM coal and will employ approximately 450 personnel.
Yancoal will invest $1 billion over the next four years to develop underground and open cut operations at Moolarben now the merger has been approved.
Moolarben – which is currently 80% owned by Yancoal – has coal reserves of 315Mt and resources of 1183Mt.
ROM production in 2011 was 7Mt with saleable production of 5Mt.