Hundreds of jobs at risk as Rio mine expansion overturned

A NSW court has overturned court approval for the expansion of Rio Tinto’s Mount Thorley mine in the Hunter Valley, potentially putting 1300 jobs at risk.

Rio Tinto warned it would review the viability of the mine, as Coal & Allied managing director Darren Yeates slammed the NSW planning system after the decision.

Yeates said the decision was a blow for the people who worked at the mine at a time when the Australian coal industry was struggling, SMH reported.

''It is also a setback for hundreds of suppliers across the Hunter Valley and NSW who do business with the Mount Thorley Warkworth mine and will directly impact the region's economy,” he said.

'' The overturning of the decision followed a rigorous 3½-year government process, and the granting of approval by both state and Commonwealth environment departments.”

Coal & Allied had been granted approval to mine bushland next to the town that had been set aside as an ‘‘offset’’ a decade ago. It was to create 150 mining jobs, and extract 18million tonnes of coal a year.

The decision to halt the expansion comes after a legal challenge from the Bulga-Milbrodale Progress Association.

Justice Brian Preston, chief judge of the Land and Environment Court said he group’s appeal should be upheld due to “the significant, diverse biological adversity, noise and dust and social impacts of the project''.

He said the impacts ''would exacerbate the sense of loss of place, and materially and adversely change the sense of community of the residents of Bulga and the surrounding countryside”.

Anti-mining group Lock the Gate welcomed the decision.

'This is a huge win for the community of Bulga,'' Lock the Gate Hunter regional co-ordinator Steve Phillips said.

 ''This mine would have had major impacts on air quality and people's health.''

While Greens MP Cate Faehrmann said  it put a spotlight on environmental issues.

''The days when king coal could brush aside communities and the environment are drawing to a close,'' she said.

Residents in the small town of Bulga celebrated the decision to halt the mine’s expansion.

‘‘Everyone on the progress association is over the moon, it’s a massive relief,’’ said local business owner Margueritte Hannaberry.

‘‘We’ve got a lot of happy people who were born and bred in Bulga today.’’

Earlier this month, Australian Mining reported that Rio Tinto was looking to cut 80 per cent of its stake in Coal & Allied, to 51 per cent.

Image: smh.com

To keep up to date with Australian Mining, subscribe to our free email newsletters delivered straight to your inbox. Click here.