The Wallarah 2 underground coal project has been approved by the New South Wales Government despite ongoing community opposition on the state’s Central Coast.
Wallarah 2, a thermal coal project that has been proposed for more than two decades, would create hundreds of construction and operational jobs if developed.
However, the Central Coast community has continually objected the proposal, primarily because it could potentially damage the local water catchment and aquifers.
Despite this opposition, the NSW Planning Assessment Commission decided the majority South Korean-owned project was in the public interest.
“The creation of 300 operational jobs, and 450 construction jobs along with the investment in the local area would have significant local benefits for the community, provide investment in the Central Coast and contribute to the growth of the region,” the Commission explained.
“The mine would also generate royalties for the state and the people of NSW while providing a source of high quality thermal coal during the global transition to a decarbonised economy.”
In regards to the region’s water quality concerns, the Commission said the impacts and potential risks could be “appropriately managed through the framework of rigorous controls and requirements in place to manage, mitigate, minimise, compensate and offset those impacts.”
“In considering the suitability of the site for underground mining the Commission acknowledged its location under a sensitive drinking water catchment and the strategic context of a growing population, an uncertain future global coal market, along with the need to curb carbon emissions and reliance on coal fired power stations,” the Commission said.
“The Commission heard and acknowledged strong calls for it to take a precautionary approach given the potential for impacts to the Central Coast’s drinking water supply catchment.
“The issue has been assessed in detail. Impacts were assessed to be small and acceptable, with no net impact on the availability of water for the Central Coast drinking water supply catchment during the life of the mine.”
The NSW Government’s approval has been criticised by industry and community groups, which say the decision showed that the state’s mine approval laws needed an overhaul.
Australian Coal Alliance campaign director Alan Hayes described the project as completely unacceptable and unwanted.
“Its approval is a slap in the face for local people who have been fighting it off for over 20 years,” Hayes said.
“The state government is more interested in appeasing the coal industry than in the welfare of the Central Coast community. It’s sickening. We will be exploring every option available to us to stop this project from going ahead, including court action.”
Lock The Gate spokesperson Steve Phillips said the decision showed how desperately the rules governing mine approvals in this state needed fixing.
“This is a risky, unwanted coal mine that threatens the safe drinking water supply for hundreds of thousands of people. The mine has been knocked back by a previous state government for those very reasons. How is it possible that the mine is now approved? The system is broken,” Phillips said.
If developed, the Wallarah project would become a 5 million tonne a year operation with a 28-year mine life.