The New South Wales (NSW) Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) has recommended that the proposed extension of the underground Springvale longwall coal mine project in Australia go ahead, despite environmental concerns.

Located 15km from Lithgow to the west of the Blue Mountains, the mine currently supplies the Mt Piper Power Station, which is responsible for supplying 15% of the NSW energy supply.

Environmental groups including the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) and Colong Foundation for Wilderness have opposed the project saying it would drain sensitive swampland, damage the Cox’s river and raise salt levels in Lake Burragong by 5%-6%.

The commission found, however, that due to its importance the expansion should go ahead.

"The commission is satisfied that the project’s benefits as currently understood outweigh its potential impacts."

The report said:"The commission has carefully weighed the key areas of concern, including discharge impacts on the region’s water resources and swamp impacts, against the significance of the resource and the socio-economic benefits."

"The commission is satisfied that the project’s benefits as currently understood outweigh its potential impacts, and on balance is approvable,"

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When asked for comment Centennial Coal replied: "This underground coal project under pins over 300 existing jobs and provides coal to a power station that keeps the lights on to 15% of NSW. We have designed the mine to minimise environmental impacts while still being able to deliver a positive economic return to the community, the company and NSW".

The project still requires final state and federal approval, and will be subject to further review by the PAC who admit more needs to be done.

"The commission considers the three key issues that require further consideration are the final plan of action in relation to discharge impacts on Coxs River, adaptive management options and offset policy provisions in relation to the impact on swamps, and resolving some of the uncertainty regarding non-conventional subsidence effects."

Image: The Springvale pit top. Photo: courtesy Centennial Coal.