The proposed longwall will have an annual coal production of 4–5 million tonnes of export quality thermal coal per year, over 42 years, with initial development coal expected to be produced in 2009 and longwall coal in 2010.
The W2CP, owned by the Wyong Areas Coal Joint Venture, will include an underground longwall mine, a coal handling plant and storage facilities, rail loop and loading infrastructure, an underground drift entry, ventilation shafts and gas management facility.
Kores Australia is now the majority owner of the JV project (82.25%), replacing BHP Billiton in 2005.
Smith said the proposed mine was a careful combination of environmental, social, economic and engineering considerations, including:
- Planning and community research, and consultation with the local community;
- Environmental monitoring of existing air and water quality;
- Flora and fauna studies, including both terrestrial and aquatic environments;
- Flood studies in the valleys;
- Groundwater investigations;
- Gathering climatic data; and
- Inputting this data into geotechnical, mine planning and subsidence assessments.
It is estimated that about $100 million on top of wages would flow annually to the regional economy if the mine goes ahead and as many as 750 jobs could be created in the area to support the 300 directly employed at the mine.
Site work undertaken to date has involved planning, surveys, geological investigations, aerial mapping and environmental monitoring; however, no substantive site work can commence until approvals are gained following the future submission of the environment assessment (expected in the first half of 2008).
There has been vocal environmental opposition to mining in the area since 2003 but Smith said the project concept represents an optimised mine layout and facilities that are sensitive to environmental constraints.
“For example, there is no coal washery [therefore no tailings, coarse reject emplacements and significantly reduced water use] and the mine footprint will avoid the Wyong River, major water storages and water supply infrastructure,” he said.
“The main opposition group has gained considerable local media coverage but fails to provide accurate information to the community.”
Smith said the groups are directly consulted and involved in the project’s numerous processes for stakeholder consultation, such as newsletters, open days, websites, meetings, interviews and surveys to involve them in the planning and assessment phase.
Following the initial consultation process, modifications were made to the project design including the decision not to undertake longwall mining directly beneath the Wyong River or within the vast majority of the flood plain of the Yarramalong Valley.
Smith said the current mine plan extends beneath a portion of the Hue Hue rural residential area and the Dooralong Valley before progressively mining beneath the Wyong State Forest area.
Strata Control Technology and Mine Subsidence Engineering Consultants are currently undertaking the subsidence assessment for the project.
“The use of two leading consultants for the subsidence assessment for this project reflects our desire to ensure that this was satisfactorily addressed during the finalisation of the mine plan design and subsequent environmental assessment,” Smith said.
For more information, visit www.wallarah.com.au.