United Wambo gets green tick with Scope 3 conditions

THE New South Wales Independent Planning Commission has approved the $381 million United Wambo Coal project in the Hunter Valley with a condition that it exports coal to countries that have accepted the Paris climate change agreement.
United Wambo gets green tick with Scope 3 conditions United Wambo gets green tick with Scope 3 conditions United Wambo gets green tick with Scope 3 conditions United Wambo gets green tick with Scope 3 conditions United Wambo gets green tick with Scope 3 conditions

Underground at the Wambo mine.

United Collieries - which is a joint venture between Glencore and Peabody - proposes integrating and expanding open cut mining operations at the existing United Wambo coal mine and United colliery to facilitate the extraction of an additional 150 million tonnes of run-of-mine coal over a 23-year period.

The IPC said Scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas emissions had been adequately minimised as far as practicable and within the capacity of the applicant to control.

"As identified by the Applicant, Scope 3 GHGEs would also be minimised as far as practicable, as the most likely export destinations for the project's coal will be to countries that are a party to the Paris Agreement or that otherwise have equivalent domestic policies for reducing GHGEs," it said.

"Accordingly, a proposed condition of consent is imposed to implement this."

Gloucester Resources' proposed Rocky Hill coal project was recently turned down by the NSW Land and Environment court because of its Scope 3 GHGEs.

A Glencore spokesman told Australia's Mining Monthly that Glencore and Peabody had noted the IPC decision to approve the United Wambo Coal Project.

"We are currently in the process of reviewing the details within the IPC's conditions of approval," he said.

The NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment finalised its assessment of the United Wambo project last November and referred the matter to the IPC for determination amid community opposition.

Commissioners Tony Pearson, Robyn Kruk and Dr Peter Williams were appointed to determine the applications.

The commissioners met with the applicant, the DPIE, Singleton Shire Council and the NSW Environmental Defenders Office, acting on behalf of the Hunter Environment Lobby, to discuss the project, and carried out an inspection of the site and surrounding area.

"After carefully considering all the evidence and weighing the community's views, the commission has today determined to approve the state significant development and associated modification applications - subject to conditions," the IPC said in statement.

Lock the Gate Alliance spokeswoman Georgina Woods said the mine would increase harmful levels of particle pollution in the Hunter, which already regularly exceeded national air pollution guidelines.

"This mine is right in the central part of the valley that is most badly affected by air pollution," she said.

"Singleton residents will suffer as a result of this expansion."

Woods said the Scope 3 condition was limited in its effectiveness, given the mine would still lead to nearly 260Mt of additional greenhouse pollution in the atmosphere, which would have a direct impact on global warming.

"With the approval of United Wambo, the Planning Commission is burdening the future. It will add to the air pollution burden in the Hunter region and contribute hundreds of millions of tonnes of additional greenhouse pollution to the atmosphere," she said.

Woods said the Scope 3 condition could be varied by the secretary of the Department of Planning, who wrote to the IPC opposing the measure.

"The Commission came under a huge amount of pressure from the Department of Planning, the Deputy Premier, and the mining industry not to address this important issue in its decision over this coal mine," she said.

"Frankly, we don't have confidence in the Department of Planning's priorities when it comes to minimising greenhouse gas emissions from exported Hunter coal.

"The Department has shown itself incapable of maturely dealing with this issue and piled pressure on the Commission to stop it from creating this modest requirement to address it."