Kepco Bylong coal project rejected due to environmental impacts

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The New South Wales Independent Planning Commission has rejected a request by Kepco Bylong to develop an open cut and underground coal mine near Mudgee.

The commission’s refusal to consent on the development of the 120 million tonne coal mine was attributed to concerns about its long-lasting environmental, agricultural and heritage impacts.

The project was expected to employ approximately 650 people during initial construction and up to 450 workers during operations over a 25 year mine life.

The state’s Department of Planning, Industry and Environment referred the development application to the commission for determination in October last year because of significant community opposition.

The commissioners met with Kepco Bylong, the department, Mid-Western Regional and Muswellbrook Shire Councils and the Bylong Valley Protection Alliance to discuss the proposed mine and conducted an inspection of the site and surrounding area.

The commission also held a public meeting in Mudgee to listen to community’s views, with key issues raised including the loss of prime agriculture land, air quality and greenhouse gas emissions and groundwater and surface water impacts.

While the commission found the mine’s predicted air quality, biodiversity, noise, subsidence and visual impacts could be effectively managed or mitigated, it raised significant concern about other longer-lasting environmental impacts.

In its statement of reasons for decision, the commission found the groundwater impacts would be unacceptable and greenhouse gas aspects of the project remain problematic.

While recognising the anticipated economic and social benefits to New South Wales during the life of the mine, including the creation of hundreds of jobs and the payment of royalties totalling up to $290 million, the commission found the mine’s environmental impacts would last long after it is decommissioned.

“The project is not in the public interest because it is contrary to the principles of ecologically sustainable development, namely intergenerational equity, because the predicted economic benefits would accrue to the present generation but the long-term environmental, heritage and agricultural costs will be borne by the future generations,” the commission concluded.

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