The Department of Planning has approved modifications to the Ashton underground coal mine in the Hunter Valley, despite intense opposition from environmentalists
The first project allows a 1.7 kilometre diversion of Bowmans Creek in two areas, for modification of Ashton Coal’s underground mine and to avoid mining under the creek.
Concerns were initially raised by local residents that mining under the creek could cause subsidence.
Planning department spokesperson Mark Skelsey said that a system has been put in place to limit the loss of groundwater from the creek into the mining panels.
"Ashton has come up with a series of measures to cover the loss of groundwater from the Bowmans Creek system," he said.
This includes “setting back the mining panels from the creek and also through the use of water licences to ensure that the creek is compensated for loss of groundwater."
"The approved modification will allow the diverted Bowmans Creek and the longwall panels to be kept separate," Department of Planning Major Project Assessments executive director Chris Wilson said.
"This compares to the current [existing] approval which would have seen Bowmans Creek sitting across the mining panel layout."
The department said the project would avoid early termination of mining at the site and secure ongoing employment for the 195 staff.
Those against the mining project going ahead included Wendy Bowman, whose family owned a large proportion of the area to be mines.
Bowman said mining would damage the fertile river lands that once supported four dairy farms.
"The whole area is criss-crossed with alluvial aquifers. It is some of the richest land in valley, which will be useless for anything other than grazing once mining occurs," she said.
The modifications will see the miner generate an additional five million tonnes of coal.