Rio Tinto has received approval from the New South Wales Planning Assessment Commission to continue mining at Mount Thorley and Warkworth coal mines.
Mount Thorley Warkworth is an integrated operation of two open-cut mines located adjacent to each other, 15km south west of Singleton in the Hunter Valley region of NSW.
In its report, the commission said that expansion of the Warkworth mine will aid the extraction of a further 230 million tonnes (Mt) of coal over a period of 21 years at a rate of up to 18Mt of coal per year.
The commission said that the Mount Thorley and Warkworth Continuation projects are consistent with government policy and legislation.
Mount Thorley Warkworth general manager Mark Rodgers said: "This is a very encouraging outcome and a vital step towards securing a strong future for Mount Thorley Warkworth mine, which provides work for 1,300 people and supports hundreds of Hunter Valley businesses and community groups.
"We will need to thoroughly review the Planning Assessment Commission’s report, to understand what this means for Mount Thorley Warkworth."
In case of any determination of the development consent, the NSW Department of Planning and Environment will consider the report released by the Planning Assessment Commission.
According to an independent assessment, the ongoing operation of Mount Thorley Warkworth mine will contribute more than $1.5bn into the NSW economy in the form of salaries and wages, taxes and royalties over the next 20 years.
As part of the ongoing operation, an offer will be made to provide more than 1,800ha of land towards a National Park in the Upper Hunter.
Measures will be taken to complete the noise attenuation of all Mount Thorley Warkworth diesel powered heavy mining equipment by end-2016.
The mine expansion is expected to secure the jobs of more than 1,300 people, who are currently employed at the sites.
Rio Tinto had received approval to extend the operation of the mine in 2012, but this was rejected by the NSW Land and Environment Court in April 2013.
Image: Mount Thorley Warkworth operation. Photo: courtesy of Rio Tinto.