Illawarra coal mine gets longwall approval

Underground longwall mining will go ahead in Wollongong, NSW after the state government approved BHP’s scaled-back plan.

BHP Billiton sought approval to mine 10 longwall panles at their Dendrobium coalmine at Mount Kembla.

The subsidience management plan (SMP), which was put forward by the miner in October last year, was required before mining could commence, The Illawarra Mercury reported.

The SMP is designed to protect the region’s water supply from expanded mining efforts.

The Department of Planning and Infrastructure said it was satisfied the impacts of mining would be negligible on the region’s water supply, but has imposed conditions on the operation.

Mining is only allowed in five longwall panels, with further approval needed to mine the other five panels.

BHP will also be required to fund a $3.5 million research program aimed at improving industry practice in rehabilitating swamp areas affected by mining, and submit a compensation package for possible impacts to surrounding swamp areas.

It is expected operations will result in damage to 12 coastal upland swamps.

Northern Illawarra Sustainability Alliance co-convener Peter Turner said the decision was a disappointing outcome for the region.

"There's no doubt there's going to be impacts," Turner said.

"Those first five longwalls are quite critical."

However, Illawarra Coal, which operates the mine said environmental assessments had been heavily incorporated in the plan.

"Extensive monitoring and reporting to government shows no reduction in water catchment yield and no water transfer from Lake Cordeaux to existing underground workings," President Troy McDonald said.

"We have developed a mine plan which positions our longwall blocks well away from the full supply level of Avon Dam and several kilometres away from the dam wall.

"Illawarra Coal has led the industry with mine planning decisions which protect the region's unique environment, and recognises the value of the catchment area and its role in our region's water supply network.”

The mine, which employs 400 people and supports another 600 indirect jobs, required yesterday’s decision to continue operating.


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