The NSW Planning Commission has approved Glencore’s Bulga Optimisation Project (BOP), which will extend the mine’s operating life and provide around 300 new construction jobs.
“This new approval is welcome news for the mine, and extends the life to 2035,” a Glencore spokesperson told Australian Mining.
“Previously we would have had to cease mining about 2017,” he said.
“Now we can provide ongoing employment for the 700 workers on site, and an extra 300 or so jobs during the construction phase.”
This approval comes after a number of changes were made to the original application in 2011, following work with the community and acting on feedback from consultation.
The expansion will occur within the mine’s existing footprint, moving away from the villages of Broke and Milbrodale, with the mine plan modified to avoid relocation of Charlton Road and disturbance of the Warkworth Sands woodlands.
The project will also construct a purpose-built bund around the operation to minimise noise impacts.
As part of the BOP Glencore has invested around $173 million in sound suppressed mining equipment, installed real time noise and air quality monitoring stations, and created a 24/7 dedicated noise and dust control centre.
However, the spokesperson added that despite the mine’s operational life expansion it is not planning to increase production levels, keeping it at around six million tonnes per annum of saleable coal, and ROM production of between 9 and 10 mtpa, despite earlier applications pushing to extract 12.2 million tonnes per year.
Glencore Australia’s coal head Ian Cribb welcomed the PAC decision, adding that Bulga is focused on working with the community.
“We understand that long term employment at the mine – and the future of the business – is dependent on us earning and maintaining community support and our licence to operate,” Cribb said.
“A Voluntary Planning Agreement (VPA) has been developed in co-operation with Singleton Council and sees funds dedicated to local community improvement projects identified during consultation on the BOP proposal.”
The BOP has seen significant opposition from environmental groups, such as the Lock the Gate Alliance
LGA were contacted, but were unavailable for further comment at the time of publishing.