Changes to the federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act announced by Environment Minister Tony Burke on Tuesday will afford increased protection to water resources.
But it is not expected to apply to projects that have already been approved.
The Newcastle Herald reported that the Carrington West open-cut mine extension located 24 kilometres north-west of New South Wales’ Singleton comes under this exemption.
Rio Tinto’s Carrington West proposal involves mining on 137 hectares of ecologically sensitive river flats.
Approval for the project is expected to be determined before the new legislation comes into effect.
There has been some concern around the impact the project will have on the Hunter River voiced at recent NSW Planning Assessment Commission hearings.
The Newcastle Herald reported speakers doubt on Coal & Allied’s ability to effectively rehabilitate the land after mining.
Coal & Allied, a Rio Tinto subsidiary, have argued the project is environmentally sound.
The company has previously stated that its environmental assessment found there would be no significant impacts to the surrounding area.
A Coal & Allied spokesman said yesterday that the company did not believe the project would be assessed under the new legislation.
Camberwell resident Deidre Olofsson, who gave a presentation to the Commission, urged the Federal Government to call-in the project.
‘‘The outcome of this project is incredibly important to the health of the Hunter River,’’ she said.
‘‘The whole thing needs to be put on hold until the new legislation takes effect.’’
Australian Mining has recently reported a growing concern emerging from locals over the state of the Hunter River.
Locals and environmentalists have voiced fears that continued expansion of coal mines located upstream will “kill” the estuary, saying that damaging the water source will debilitate the region’s strong farming sector and hamper further growth of the local tourism industry.