Cockatoo Coal sells stake in coal exploration project

Cockatoo Coal has sold its stake in Hume Coal, making Korean steel company POSCO the sole owner of the Southern Highlands coal project.

Cockatoo Coal managing director, Andrew Lawson, said the company would focus on its mine at Baralaba in Queensland.

"We wish Posco Australia well with its endeavours at Hume and look forward to continuing our strong relationship with the group," he said.

POSCO acquired 100 per cent of the Hume project from Anglo American in 2010, after which it entered a share-swap agreement with Cockatoo Coal who acquired a 30 per cent interest.

The sale included a cash payment of $9.74 million and the cancellation of 134.8 million shares in Cockatoo Coal, Southern Highlands News reported.

Soo-Cheol Shin of POSCO Australia said the Hume Coal Project said no one would lose their jobs.

"The current team has done an excellent job and we intend to retain all staff currently employed on the Project and progress through exploration, so we can understand the environmental and economic feasibility of developing a mine in the area," he said.

Early last month, Hume Coal were granted a three year lease to continue coal exploration in the Southern Highlands area.

The company has previously stated that if a mine was developed in the area benefits to the community would include 500 temporary jobs, 300 permanent roles, and apprenticeship programs with local schools and TAFE.

"Exploration and monitoring work already completed indicates the potential for an underground mine that would employ up to 400 people and provide significant additional economic benefits to the region and royalties to the NSW Government,” Shin said.

However, Hume Coal has faced protests from Southern Highlands Coal Action Group (SHCAG), for several years, with the group concerned about the impacts of another coal mine in the area.

SHCAG convenor Peter Martin said he hoped POSCO would walk away from the project.

"Hume Coal is facing very significant obstacles especially the groundwater issues that will be difficult if not impossible to overcome," he said.

"With POSCO in control, one hopes common sense will prevail."

"In addition, landowners in the Hume licence area are fighting tooth and nail to prevent access to their properties for exploratory drilling."

Last month a group of protestors gathered outside Hume Coal’s Moss Vale office in protest of exploration activities.

Protest organisers said the group would return to the office in order to inform locals about their concerns over plans to develop a mine in the region.

The move came after an order by the NSW Land and Environment Court ordered the group to stop a blockade of a Carter’s Lane in Sutton Forest.

Hume Coal project manager Tim Rheinberger said community towards any mining development had been mostly positive.

"We understand that there are many views about the Hume Coal Project and everyone has a right to have an opinion, however, I believe that there are many in the community that are supportive of the project and the opportunities that a future mine may bring,” he said.

"I understand that the representatives of SHCAG are intending to come back. I hope they respect our staff and do not obstruct anyone wanting to come into the office."

Rheinberger said the company was committed to supporting the local community by using local contractors for its projects and had already spent about $900,000 with local businesses.

Image: southernhighlandsnews.com.au

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