South32 has received New South Wales backing to proceed with the extension plan for its Dendrobium coal mine in the Illawarra region.
The proposed $1 billion extension is aimed at increasing metallurgical coal extraction from 5.2 million tonnes a year of run-of-mine (ROM) coal to 78 million tonnes from two new underground mining areas.
The project is expected to expand the Dendrobium mine workforce from around 400 to 500 personnel and extend the mine’s life by another 25 years.
According to the New South Wales Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE) , 81 per cent of the 775 public submissions received gave their support for the project due to its employment opportunities and its importance to the continuation of Australia’s largest steel production facility, BlueScope Steelworks.
Coal from the Dendrobium mine and South32’s nearby Appin mine produce the premium quality coal blend used for steelmaking. The coal blend is partly delivered to the BlueScope Steelworks in Port Kembla, New South Wales, and others shipped via seaborne transport to Whyalla Steelworks in South Australia or exported internationally.
The DPIE stated that it expected the expansion project to provide major economic and social benefits for Wollongong and its surrounding region.
According to the DPIE, key issues raised in objections of the project had stemmed from the potential surface water losses from water supply catchments.
However, South32 proposed to pay the state government one upfront as well as annual payments totalling $103.1 million for the project’s water take.
“The department considers that South32 has designed the project in a manner that achieves a good balance between maximising the recovery of a coal resource of state significance and minimising the potential impacts on the water resource, biodiversity values and other environmental values of the metropolitan special area,” DPIE stated.
The project determination now rests on the state’s Independent Planning Commission.