The Underground Expansion Plan (UEP) involves extracting 4.7 million tonnes of coal over five years from eight new underground longwall panels.
The UEP for Russell Vale, which had been placed on care and maintenance last September, is expected to contribute $23-million to government through royalties and $85-million through capital investment and other direct and indirect flow-on effects despite ranking 50 out of the 56 coal mines in New South Wales.
The NSW Department of Planning and Environment recommended that the project be approved and Wollongong Coal maintains its proposal was underpinned by technical studies which addressed the concerns of the previous PAC review.
“Despite significant challenges Wollongong Coal has persevered with the unconditional support of its major shareholders and worked tirelessly for several years to ensure the proposal met the requirements of government policies,” it said.
“Wollongong Coal’s longer term strategy to re-establish a stable and sustainable operation with benefits extending far beyond those of the Underground Expansion Plan.
“The company will now review the PAC’s report in detail before it determines its future course of action.”
Wollongong Coal noted the PAC report acknowledges global demand for high quality coking coal such as the resource at Russell Vale, a critical steel making input, will remain high into the future.
Wollongong Coal also noted the NSW government has actively supported BlueScope Steel in part due to its important role as a job generator in the Illawarra.
“Given the significant economic and employment challenges currently facing the Illawarra Wollongong Coal continues to consider its assets a critical component to an integrated, long term economic plan for the region,” the company said.
Public hearings were held as part of the independent PAC’s second review of Wollongong Coal’s application to expand Russell Vale colliery.
The review took into consideration changes to the planning policy governing mining in NSW and additional information provided by the company.
The PAC completed its first review in April last year, raising several issues the company needed to address.
Wollongong Coal provided its final response to this review at the end of September, including a detailed independent risk assessment focusing on subsidence and water impacts.
The Department completed its favourable review of this information and will then provide it to the Planning Assessment Commission.
The second review provided the Commission an opportunity to review the project in light of recent changes to the State Planning Policy for Mining (the Mining SEPP).
The change meant that environmental, social and economic considerations are all given equal consideration under the policy.