Operations to restart at Dartbrook as extension denied

AQC Dartbrook Management has received an approval to restart a mothballed coal mine in the Upper Hunter of New South Wales. The operator was, however, unable to extend its plans at the site beyond 2022.

The state’s Independent Planning Commission has ruled that the Dartbrook mine, south of Aberdeen, can extract up to six million tonnes of run of mine coal a year using longwall methods.

AQC subsidiary Australian Pacific Coal has submitted a modified application to restart the mine after it was put into care and maintenance in late 2006.

Australian Pacific sought approval last year for bord-and-pillar mining as an alternative to the site’s already-established longwall mining.

The NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment referred the matter to the Commission for determination in January this year amid strong opposition from Upper Hunter Shire Council and the local community.

The Commission has approved only part of the modified application, that is to commence underground coal mining on site using bord-and-pillar methods, and use a varied coal clearance system.

“Mining operations have been approved until 2022 and bord and pillar mining has been acknowledged by the proponent and Department as a less intensive and environmentally-impacting activity than longwall mining,” the Commission stated.

AQC was, however, refused a five-year extension to the Dartbrook mine when its current approval ends on December 2022.

“There is uncertainty about the application’s future impacts as it entertains the possibility that some aspects of the currently approved project may continue or restart after 2022, and the application does not adequately evaluate these impacts, and how these would then affect the project’s cost benefit analysis,” the commission said.

These impacts include air quality, noise, subsidence, groundwater and greenhouse gas emissions.

The Commission ruled that a five-year extension “would not be in accordance” with the principles of ecologically sustainable development and is not in the public interest.

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