300 jobs on the line as Wollongong Coal seeks make-do mining approval

Wollongong Coal says it may have to shut down its Russell Vale mine unless the New South Wales government approves a temporary fix to its mining plan.

Wollongong Coal, formerly known as Gujarat NRE, wants to start mining its longwall 6 before final government approval is granted on a major extension proposed last year.

As part of that application, which is expected to be determine later this year, the mine’s life would be extended by five years and coal production would increase to 4.7 million tonnes per annum.

However the company says unless it is given permission to mine a 400 metre block of longwall 6 in the interim, it may have to shut the operation.

In documents submitted with Department of Planning, the company is also seeking to extend its current mine licence from October this year to June 2015.

The company said mining from longwall 4 and 5 has been completed, and once the longwall 6 mine gate roads are completed, which is expected by the end of April, no further coal mining or underground development is permitted without further approval.

If this happens, the company says it will be forced to put the operation into care and maintenance, affecting the 300 people who work at the mine.

 It also says the mines closure would affect the company’s ability to continue payments to suppliers, contractors and consultants.

Environmental groups have previously criticised Wollongong Coal’s plans to mine longwall 6, claiming it poses a major threat to the water catchment area.

They say the mine expansion has the potential to damage streams and endanger swamps which supply water to the catchment area.

Wollongong Coal says the shorter section of longwall 6 has been identified as it avoids mining under the majority of upland swamp.

It said potential impacts on the swamps would continue to be assessed as part of the larger underground expansion project already lodged with the government.

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