Receive our newsletter – data, insights and analysis delivered to you
  1. News
December 8, 2021updated 07 Jan 2022 6:45am

New South Wales overturns decision to block mine expansion

The decision to overturn the planning commission has seen the government criticised by environmentalists and may set a dangerous precedent.

By Zachary Skidmore

The New South Wales (NSW) Government has reversed a decision made by the New South Wales Independent Planning Commission (IPC) that had rejected the expansion of a coal mine near Wollongong. The IPC initially rejected the expansion due to fears that the project could cause significant damage to the Sydney and Illawarra drinking water catchments.

On Saturday, the NSW Government announced that South32’s extension proposal would be granted State Significant Infrastructure (SSI) status. The minister for planning is permitted to deem projects SSI if they are considered essential for economic, environmental, or social reasons.

Initial application

In February, the IPC had rejected South32’s plan to extract an additional 78 million tonnes of coal from its Dendrobium mine until 2048.

In addition to the potential for long-term impacts on the region’s drinking water, the IPC found that coal from the mine was primarily destined for foreign markets and is therefore not critical to the country’s economy. In 2019, 77% of the coking coal from Dendrobium was exported from the region.

SSI status

The reversal of the decision by Deputy Premier Paul Toole and Planning Minister Rob Stokes was executed under the rationale that the Dendrobium mine expansion was SSI due to its role in providing coal for the Port Kembla steelworks.

In supporting the request, Toole said: “Dendrobium is a critical source of coking coal for the Port Kembla steelworks and the decision to declare the project SSI will provide thousands of workers with greater certainty on the future of their jobs.”

In a statement, South32 welcomed the decision: “This marks an important step, providing a pathway for the submission of an alternate mine plan to the NSW minister for planning and public spaces, to be assessed as SSI.”

Dangerous precedent

The decision has been lambasted by environmental groups, who have argued that the inference from the NSW Government sets a dangerous precedent. In the statement by the state government, concerns over water supply or emissions were not mentioned, supporting concerns that Australia has placed profit over the environment in its support of the coal industry.

Independent NSW MP Justin Field said that the decision to approve the expansion through granting it SSI status is unusual, with SSI declarations usually used only for major roads and water supply projects.

“I think it makes a mockery of the planning system and raises serious concerns about its independence,” Field stated.

 

Related Companies

NEWSLETTER Sign up Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. The top stories of the day delivered to you every weekday. A weekly roundup of the latest news and analysis, sent every Friday. The mining industry's most comprehensive news and information delivered every month.
I consent to GlobalData UK Limited collecting my details provided via this form in accordance with the Privacy Policy
SUBSCRIBED

THANK YOU