New coal at West Wallsend despite Mt Sugarloaf contraversy

Glencore has received approval to mine out two new longwall
panels at the West Wallsend coal mine.

The new approval will secure a year of work for the 390
workers at the mine, and provide 2.55 million tonnes of coal to production, according
to the Newcastle

The approval was granted to replace 3 million tonnes of coal
lost to subsidence at longwall panel 41 under Mount Sugarloaf.

The controversial subsidence incident devastated a large section
of the Sugarloaf State Conservation area, with waterways damaged and hillsides and cliffs collapsed.

Environmentalists and bushwalking groups were outraged at
the destruction caused in the conservation area.

Local resident Robert Bignell said the subsidence caused
millions of dollars of damage.

Last year National Parks Association Hunter president Ian
Donovan said the damage was completely unacceptable.

“This would be totally unacceptable in an urban environment,
but it appears to be acceptable at least to mining companies, in a state
conservation area,” he said.

Critics now say Glencore should not have been given approval
for the new longwalls, after insufficient efforts and further environmental accidents
occurred in the remediation the Sugarloaf area.

Despite claiming they had finished remediation works in June
2014, Glencore was responsible for accidently pouring 160 cubic metres of grout
into two creeks above the mine.

Green Corridor Coalition co-ordinator Brian Purdue said that
there were other impacts of subsidence that remain completely irreparable,
including substantial cliff falls.

‘‘They can’t be remediated and they will just stay that way,
forever,’’ Purdue said.

The Department of Planning and Environment said longwalls 42
and 43 had been shortened to prevent further subsidence.

New panels 51 and 52 are southern end of the mine away from
subsidence areas.

The approvals were modified by the Planning and Assessment
commission on October 21.

A spokesperson for Glencore contacted Australian Mining with the following statement:

“We remain deeply disappointed by the subsidence incident,
which was at odds with 40 years of responsible mining by West Wallsend and
occurred as a result of a unique, unmapped geological feature on a very steep
slope,” the spokesperson said.

“Our response to the recent incidents reflects our commitment
to mining responsibly.

mining activity is located a long way from the VBM feature, and future
mining is not expected to further disturb it. No further longwall mining is now
proposed near to or
adjacent to the VBM feature.”

Images: Darren Pateman

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