Rio’s appeal could be too little too late for Hunter jobs

Launching an appeal today against a NSW Land and Environment Court’s decision to overturn the Warkworth Extension, Coal & Allied said it could be too little too late to save coal jobs at its Hunter Valley operation.

NSW Planning Minister Brad Hazzard is supporting the case, also lodging an appeal.

But a successful appeal may not be enough to save jobs at the Mount Thorley Warkworth mine in the NSW Hunter Valley.

Rio Tinto Energy Chief Executive Harry Kenyon-Slaney said the process could take months and may come to late to avoid production and job losses at the operation.

“We’ve already spent close to four years trying to secure approval for this mine extension and it is unlikely the legal system can deliver an outcome in time to avoid impacts on Mount Thorley Warkworth,” he said.

The expansion application was overturned in April, as a result of a merit based appeal lodged by local Bulga residents.

At the time C&A managing director Darren Yeates slammed the NSW planning system saying the decision was a blow for the people who worked at the mine at a time when the Australian coal industry was struggling.

''It is also a setback for hundreds of suppliers across the Hunter Valley and NSW who do business with the Mount Thorley Warkworth mine and will directly impact the region's economy,” he said.

Kenyon-Slaney described the decision as a “legal blow” which is now forcing the company “to operate in a reduced footprint which impacts productivity and drives up costs”.

“If this continues, it will be impossible to maintain production levels at the mine which in turn means fewer jobs,” he said.

Mount Thorley currently employees about 1300 people.

 “The workers at this mine are doing everything within their power to combat the challenging environment confronting the Australian coal industry,” Kenyon-Slaney said.

“They are delivering outstanding production in a bid to keep the operation profitable and it would be very sad to see their jobs taken away by the Land and Environment Court’s decision.”

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