The state’s Independent Planning Commission has given the go ahead to a major coal mine expansion in the Illawarra Region.
Wollongong Coal Limited (the Applicant) sought planning approval to extract up to 3.7-million tonnes of coal over five years using bord-and-pillar mining at the Russell Vale Colliery. It’s projected the Russell Vale Underground Expansion Project will deliver a net economic benefit to the state of up to $174 million and create ongoing employment for 205 people.
The Department of Planning, Industry & Environment finalised its whole-of-government assessment of the state significant development application in September this year. It came to the Commission for determination because there were more than 50 ‘unique’ public objections to the proposal.
Three Commissioners were appointed to determine the application: Professor Alice Clark, Professor Chris Fell AM and Dr Peter Williams. They met with the Applicant, Department, the NSW Resources Regulator, Wollongong City Council and Wollondilly Shire Council, and conducted an inspection of the mine site and surrounding area.
The Commission also hosted a two-day public hearing, as requested by the NSW Minister for Planning & Public Spaces, to listen to the community’s views.
The key issues of concern raised at the public hearing and in written submissions to the Commission included water resources, subsidence, air quality, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, biodiversity, bushfire risk, mine waste, noise, visual amenity, socio-economics and traffic and transport.
After carefully considering the evidence and weighing the community’s views, the Commission has today (Tuesday 8 December 2020) determined to approve the expansion, subject to 118 conditions.
In its Statement of Reasons for Decision, the Commission concluded that “on balance, and when weighed against the objects of the [Environmental Planning & Assessment] Act, ecologically sustainable development principles, the relevant policy framework, and socio-economic benefits, the impacts associated with the Project are acceptable and the Project is in the public interest.”
“[T]he Project would result in some amenity impacts and additional environmental disturbance associated with recommencement of mining operations at the site in accordance with the proposed mine plan… [however] the Commission is of the view that the additional environmental and amenity impacts can be appropriately managed and mitigated in accordance with the applicable guidelines and policies,” it found.
In making its determination, the Commission found (amongst other things):
“The Commission has imposed the Department’s recommended conditions and additional conditions to ensure that the Project complies with the relevant criteria and standards, that impacts are consistent with the predictions in the [Revised Preferred Project Report] (including supplementary material) and that residual impacts are minimised, mitigated and – where relevant – compensated for,” the Commission noted.
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