Anglo American’s proposed Drayton South coal mine has been referred to the Planning Assessment Commission after the Department of Planning supported its approval.
Anglo American’s reduced mine plan, which was brought in after repeated rejections of its wider proposed Drayton South mine, has gained the approval.
Under the new plan the mine will sit behind the natural landscape, will reduce its operating life from 27 down to 20 years, and cut tonnage from 119 million down to 97 million over the life of the mine.
According to the Department of Planning and Infrastructure’s assessment of the coal mine’s plan, it “found the project can be approved under strict conditions to manage potential noise, dust, and environmental impacts”.
The implementation of an extensive biodiversity offset area of 2300 hectares was also recommended by the Department.
“The Department’s latest assessment acknowledges that horse breeding and mining are both very important to the Upper Hunter and found the two industries can coexist,” a Department spokesperson said.
“As recommended by the PAC in its review, the mine will not be visible from the primary operating areas of nearby horse studs.”
The news was welcomed by Anglo American, which has considered the proposed mine in limbo for a number of months.
Earlier this year Anglo says it was forced to cut jobs at its operating Drayton coal mine over continuing uncertainty regarding Drayton South’s future.
Drayton's current general manager David O'Rourke explained that the new roster change had come as a direct result of the prolonged planning delays.
"Unfortunately we haven't been able to secure replacement mining lease in time and as a result we have had to scale back the level of operation at Drayton, slow production, and extend what we have left for as long as possible," O'Rourke said.
"Due to reduction in production associated with the roster change, some members of our contracting workforce have been advised they will finish up at Drayton at the end of June.
"However, as we move to the new roster, in the immediate term we have been able to maximise available jobs for the permanent workforce and no redundancies are required at this time."
With the report finalised and passed on to the PAC, Anglo American’s Drayton South project director Rick Fairhurst urged the PAC to progress to the next stage of approvals as soon as possible in order to provider the remaining Anglo American miners in the region certainty over their future.
“The release of the report is a positive step forward for our employees, the local community and the 140 local businesses depending on Drayton South for their livelihoods,” Fairhurst said.
“We are pleased to receive a balanced report which has taken into consideration the compromises we have made to coexist with other industries and ensure we operate the future mine in a responsible way that does not exceed the various environmental and air quality parameters.”
He went on to say that Anglo American has reached a critical stage for the Drayton workforce, after moving from a seven to five day roster in response to the afore mentioned delays.
“We look forward to the next PAC review of the project being held in a timely manner, so we can develop the replacement mine as soon as possible while coexisting responsibly alongside other industries.”