Scaled-back version of Illawarra mine expansion revealed

Gujurat NRE could cut the life of its Russell Vale coal mine by more than half after signalling changes to its $250 million expansion proposal.

Gujurat NRE could cut the life of its Russell Vale coal mine by more than half after signalling changes to its $250 million expansion proposal.

According to the Illawarra Mercury, minutes obtained from the company’s last community committee meeting show a scaling down of the planned expansion of the No 1 Colliery after its original application was rejected due to environmental issues.

As well as cutting the life span of the project, plans to develop seven longwalls at the company’s Wonga West mine could by dumped from the application and resubmitted as a separate document to NSW planning, meeting documents said.

Documents also showed Gujurat would not expand its mine under the Cataract Reservior, but instead mine nine longwalls at its Wonga East mine.

The expansion would still produce three million tonnes more coal per annum.

A spokeswoman for the company said that plans were only a draft.

‘‘NRE has by no means finalised its PPR [preferred project report] as there is still complex and detailed work to complete that could result in further changes,’’ the spokeswoman said.

‘‘This work is still continuing in liaison with [NSW Planning] and there may well be changes from the draft PPR as shown to the media.’’

The spokesman added that the release of minutes from the meeting was ‘‘in breach’’ of planning guidelines and the company was unable to answer specific questions about the plans.

“It would appear that a member of the committee has not followed the protocol by releasing the minutes to the media before they had been approved,’’ she said.

Illawarra Residents for Responsible Mining spokeswoman Kaye Osborn said the group was still concerned about the health and environmental impacts of the mine.

‘‘This reduction means nothing for the neighbourhood around the mine, because the mining infrastructure and the amount of coal taken out will still be increased to three million tonnes a year,’’ Osborn said.

‘‘And while there is a decrease in the length of the longwalls in the Sydney Water Catchment area, that is not enough because we believe it is not appropriate to be doing three-tier longwall mining under this area.’’

She wants NSW Planning to put the ‘‘vastly different’’ proposal back on public exhibition.

Gujarat NRE has previously said the expansion would generate $609 million over the life of the project, with local expenditure expected to exceed $1 billion.

Indian-owned mining firm Gujarat NRE Coking Coal announced plans to invest $500 million in the expansion of its coal mines in New South Wales in 2010.

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