Wallarah longwall project steps forward

A GOVERNMENT inquiry into the impact of mining on water in NSW’s Central Coast region has reported positive findings, giving Korea Resources Corporation the boost it needs to move the $A700 million Wallarah 2 coal project towards approval at the end of this year.
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Glennies Creek coal mine

Angie Tomlinson

The project, located in the northwest of the Wyong Shire, has faced significant environmental opposition since the preliminary application was submitted. However, the project recently experienced a win with the findings of a government-appointed independent expert panel.

The inquiry examined the potential impact of mining in the surrounding Dooralong and Yarramalong valleys and the effect it would have on the region’s water.

The panel found the proposed underground longwall mining operation was unlikely to compromise the water supply and that there were no significant reasons why coal mining should not be permitted in the Wyong local government area.

The report found underground mining activity would not affect the availability of groundwater resources and that claims of the importance of groundwater in the Wyong Valley to the Central Coast’s water supply had been exaggerated.

It also stated there would be no significant impact on water supply infrastructure, such as dams and major pipelines.

Peter Smith, manager environment and community of the Wallarah 2 coal project, said Kores now looked forward to the issuing of the director-general’s requirements from the Department of Planning so it could complete and submit its environmental assessment report.

Smith said, provided these requirements were released immediately, the environmental assessment report for the project was expected to be on public display by around September this year.

“The planning minister has already advised that a Planning Assessment Commission inquiry would be involved and it is hoped that this would be held immediately after the exhibition period,” Smith said.

This would mean a project approval could be expected around the end of 2009 or early 2010.

He said it was hoped that the overall planning approval process and grant of mining lease would allow construction to begin in late 2010.

Kores expects the cost of construction and development to commence coal production at the mine will be around $700 million.

The construction period of three years is expected to bring more than $1 billion in benefits to the Central Coast economy and 1800 jobs in the first year of construction alone, according to the Central Coast Research Foundation.

The mine plan comprises two surface facilities on industrially zoned land, away from key water infrastructure, and the coal handling facilities will be located outside the water catchment.

The mine will be constructed with one of Australia’s longest mine drifts (around 4km to pit bottom) to allow coal to be brought to the surface facility between the F3 freeway and the Main Northern Rail Line for delivery into the export market via Newcastle Port.

Smith said the mine plan was the culmination of more than a decade of studies and research, including extensive community consultation.

“It is a plan structured around appropriate environmental and community imperatives with technical and financial outcomes that will deliver high-quality coal to the marketplace.”

Wholly owned by Kores, the project is expected to produce 4-5 million tonnes per annum over 42 years.