Rio Tinto has announced it will resubmit plans to expand the controversial Mt Thorley Warkworth mine, shocking community groups who successfully opposed the original plans.
The multinational has attempted to sweeten the deal with a biodiversity offset package which includes a donation of 1800 hectares of land to be made a national park.
Rio Tinto Coal Australia managing director Chris Salisbury said the mine is under considerable financial pressure, and that Rio could not afford to wait for a decision of the planning decision appeal.
Planning consent for the expansion was given by the state government, but was then overturned in April 2013 by the NSW Land and Environment Court because the mine would create unacceptable noise and dust problems for nearby residents in Bulga.
Since then NSW government have changed laws relating to mine planning approvals, the State Environmental Planning Policy, to give greater consideration to economic concerns when challenged by community concerns about the impact of new mining operations.
Local residents of Bulga have cried foul on the legislative change that has enabled Rio Tinto to reapply for the expansion.
Resident John Krey told the ABC “that SEPP amendment was invented to offset the findings of the Land and Environment Court and we believe that was pressure from Rio Tinto.”
“There’s no secret that there were several sessions that Rio Tinto had with the government,” Krey said.
Rio Tinto’s Chris Salisbury said the company will do what it can, including the biodiversity package, to alleviate local community concerns.
"You know we are going to continue to consult with residents of Bulga and we know that some residents obviously have got some concerns,” he said.
"We've attempted to respond to some of those concerns and we'll continue to consult with them through the application process."
Rio Tinto was already successful in their application for a smaller expansion of the mine in January this year.