Mt Thorley Warkworth coal to jump through final assessment hoop

Expansion plans for the Mt Thorley Warkworth coal mine have
been referred to the independent Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) for a
final decision, showing promise for employees in the area.

The NSW Department of Planning and Environment (DPE) has
recommended a set of conditions to the PAC which in the event of final approval
would see strict limitations on noise and dust, funding for local
infrastructure, and conservation and rehabilitation measures.

A spokeperson for DPE said the Department was satisfied that
impacts of the mine on the local area, including the Bulga village, would be
managed if operator Rio Tinto followed those strict conditions.

“Given the economic benefits and the fact the impacts can be
managed, the Department has recommended that the PAC approve the proposals,”
the spokesperson said.

PAC recommendations to relocate the Bulga Village were not
supported by the DPE review.

“Our assessment found dust and noise impacts on the village
would not be significantly greater than what Bulga is already experiencing,”
the spokesperson said.

“There are a small number of houses where the noise criteria
may be exceeded, and so the Department has recommended that these landowners
are able to seek further mitigation to their properties from the mine’s
operators.”

Rio Tinto Coal and Allied may be obligated to pay $11
million to Singleton Council, over the 21 year extended mine life, for local
services in the Bulga village and surrounds.

Conditions include completion of the $30 million program to
reduce mining equipment noise by the end of 2016.

The company will also have to put aside 3000 hectares of
land for conservation, and progressively rehabilitate the final void back to
native woodland.

NSW Minerals Council chief executive Stephen Galilee news of
reaching the final stage of approval would be welcome news for mine workers and
economic beneficiaries of the mine in the Hunter region.

“Today, the 1,300 workers at Mount Thorley Warkworth and
their families have another reason to hope that their economic future may be
secured for years to come,” Galilee said.

“Hundreds of people employed in local businesses that supply
Mount Thorley Warkworth will also welcome the recommendation as it means their
jobs are also looking more secure.

“In 2014, Mount Thorley Warkworth spent $188 million with
more than 270 suppliers in the region, so it’s critical that this project be allowed
to continue.”

Current planning approvals mean the mine can only sustain
existing production levels
until the end of 2015.

Last year Rio Tinto chose to submit amended plans for the mine
in anticipation of losing their appeal against the 2013 planning consent overruling
by the Land and Environment Court.

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