Springvale springs back

THE New South Wales government has announced plans to introduce legislation that will secure the Springvale mine’s future and stave off a massive electricity headache it would have suffered had the mine closed.
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Springvale's life looks to be assured with the NSW government announcing a legislative solution.

Noel Dyson

A court decision threatened Centennial Coal’s Springvale mine’s continued operation, which would have caused a massive problem because the Lithgow mine is the only coal supplier to the Mt Piper power station.

That station supplies up to 15% of NSW’s electricity demand and is critical to the energy system’s reliability, particularly during peak summer periods.

In 2015 environmental group 4Nature, represented by the NSW Environmental Defenders Office, challenged Springvale’s planning consent in the Land and Environment Court.

The LEC confirmed Springvale’s ability to keep operating so 4Nature, again supported by the NSWEDO, appealed and the NSW Court of Appeal found in its favour.

On October 16 and 17 the LEC is due to hear evidence from both sides and decide when Springvale will cease operating.

Rather than fight the battle in court, the NSW government decided a legislative solution would be quicker and easier.

This way the mine will get to keep operating.

“Today’s announcement secures more than 600 jobs in Lithgow,” Centennial Coal managing director and CEO Mick Cairney said.

“Importantly, today’s announcement provides the certainty we need to deliver on our commitment to construct a water treatment facility representing an investment of more than $100 million.

“This facility is the environmental solution that has been sought by the Environmental Protection Authority and even supported by Springvale’s detractors and is designed to redirect water otherwise discharged to the Coxs River to Mt Piper Power Station for use in the station’s cooling towers.”

Mt Piper power station owner Energy Australia also welcomed the government’s decision.

Energy Australia executive – energy Mark Collette said the proposed legislation would secure the power station’s immediate future and the $100 million water plant.

“This is good news for the local community because jobs will be protected,” he said.

“This is good news for the environment because no mine water will make its way into local creeks and rivers.

“And this is good news for the people in NSW who depend upon Mt Piper for reliable and affordable electricity.

“Once the legislation is passed we cease to be affected by coal rationing and we will resume generating electricity more freely, which can only help ease the pressure on electricity prices.”

NSW Minerals Council CEO Stephen Galilee said the government deserved full credit for seeking to protect jobs and secure the state’s electricity supply.

“The NSW government has made a responsible decision to introduce legislation that will maintain water quality in the Sydney catchment and, at the same time, allow the Springvale mine to keep Mt Piper supplied with coal.”