State government blocks new NSW coal project

An application for a new coal mine in New South Wales has been rejected by the state’s Independent Planning Commission, with the project’s potential impacts deemed to outweigh its benefits.

Hume Coal had sought planning approval for a new underground mine seven kilometres northwest of Moss Vale, with plans to extract approximately 50 million tonnes of run-of-mine coal over 23 years.

The $533 million project also included a proposed rail loop so that coal could be transported to Port Kembla.

Hume Coal believed the project would bring economic benefits to the region and NSW, including employment generation and flow-on benefits to local businesses.

The company considered coal as a strategic resource, including for steel production and electricity generation, while also inferring the suitability of the mining method for managing subsidence and a range of other environmental impacts.

However, the Independent Planning Commission considered the potential risks too great, citing groundwater drawdown, risks to surface water, impacts to local biodiversity and more.

“The Commission ultimately finds that the stated benefits of the project do not outweigh the adverse environmental, social and economic impacts,” the Statement of Reasons for Decisions reads.

“The impacts of the project cannot be reasonably and satisfactorily avoided, mitigated and managed through conditions.”

Commissioners Peter Duncan, Alice Clark and Chris Wilson were appointed to make a final decision.

They met with Hume Coal, Wingecarribee Shire Council, Coal Free Southern Highlands, independent experts in mining engineering and groundwater, and NSW’s Department of Planning, Industry and Environment water group as part of their determination process.

The community had its say on the project during a two-day electronic public hearing hosted by the panel in July, as well as in written submissions to the commission.

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