South32 coal mine extension axed

South32’s proposed mine life extension for the Dendrobium mine in New South Wales has been rejected by the New South Wales Government Independent Planning Commission (IPC).

The IPC found environmental impact risks are “likely to be irreversible” for the Dendrobium extension.

The extension proposed to mine coal from two new areas near Avon and Cordeaux Dams in Wollongong, extending the mine’s operations until the end of 2048 and with an additional 78 million tonnes of run-of-mine coal.

According to the IPC, expanding the two areas would threaten Greater Sydney and the Illawarra’s drinking water catchment.

However, a government assessment from the New South Wales Department of Planning, Industry and Environment previously determined the $956-million extension was “approvable” and “in the public’s interest”.

The IPC declared it did not meet its expectations for sustainability and did not meet the public’s interest.

“(After) careful examination of all the evidence and weighing all relevant considerations, the IPC has found that the longwall mine design put forward by South32 does not achieve a balance between maximising the recovery of a coal resource of state significance and managing, minimising or mitigating the impacts on the water resources and biodiversity and other environmental values of the metropolitan special area,” the IPC statement of reasons for decision read.

Other concerns about the mine design included its impact on Aboriginal cultural heritage, biodiversity, and greenhouse gas emissions.

According to the IPC, South32 did not address concerns about the proposed mine design.

“The applicant has made minor amendments; however, the impacts remain significant,” the IPC stated.

In an ASX announcement, South32 stated it is reviewing the findings from the decision.

“We are reviewing its findings and will continue to engage with key stakeholders including the New South Wales Government, relevant agencies and the community in relation to the Dendrobium next domain project ahead of providing further updates,” South32 stated.

The Dendrobium mine produces 5.2 million tonnes per annum of run-of mine coal, which is used in local and international steelmaking.

South32 stated the project extension would support continued employment of its 90 per cent local workforce.

New South Wales Minerals Council chief executive officer Stephen Galilee has called on the state government to intervene in the decision.

“The refusal of this Project will cost 700 direct local jobs at the Dendrobium mine and put the jobs of thousands more people at risk, including local contractors and suppliers, as well as thousands of jobs at the BlueScope Steelworks dependent on coal from the mine,” he said.

“The NSW Government must intervene to ensure this project is approved and can proceed, as recommended by its own Department of Planning.

“To do anything less will demonstrate a willingness to throw away billions in investment and the jobs of thousands of people at a time of significant economic need.”

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