Rix’s Creek coal approval reversed in ‘embarrassing’ blunder

The New South Wales Independent Planning Commission (IPC) has approved an extension of Rix’s Creek South Coal Mine after a six-year long process, only to reverse the decision hours later.

An approval of the expansion would have extended operations at the Bloomfield Group mine near Singleton until 2040.

The approval was reversed as the deadline for additional information from the Department of Planning, Industry & Environment had not lapsed. The deadline for comment was extended to October 11.

An initial decision to approve the expansion provided hope of stability for more than 300 miners as an extension of the operation would have boosted the Hunter economy, according to NSW Minerals Council chief executive officer Stephen Galilee.

“They now have to wait to see whether they have a long-term future again. It’s obviously, personally, a very, very stressful time for 300 people and their families.”

IPC panel chair Mary O’Kane said the announcement was the result of human error.

“It’s embarrassing for the IPC because we try to work hard to give everyone a chance to comment and give as much input as possible, it’s very embarrassing,” O’Kane told the ABC.

NSW Planning Minister Rob Stokes has asked for an immediate review of the commission, which has been welcomed by O’Kane.

Galilee also questioned the timeframe it took to approve the expansion in the first place.

“This project isn’t even a new mining operation but an extension of an existing mine – yet it’s taken almost six years to get an approval, including four years of assessment processes involving the Department and Planning and the IPC,” Galilee said.

“This is an unacceptable timeframe caused by duplication, inconsistency and uncertainty within a complicated planning system that is acting as a deterrent to investment in NSW.

“The proponent even had to lodge an interim short-term application for a nine month extension of the existing operation because the overall assessment process was taking too long and placing the existing operation and jobs in jeopardy.”

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