A recent decision by the New South Wales (NSW) Land and Environment Court to suspend Rio Tinto's plan to expand its Mount Thorley Warkworth coal mine will put 150 more projects at risk, the mining giant's energy chief has warned.
Overturning the approval for the project will have wider-ranging consequences affecting all major new investment projects and the existing mine projects that are awaiting approvals to continue operations in NSW, Harry Kenyon-Slaney wrote in The Australian.
The court overturned the state government's approval for the expansion of the project, owned by Rio's subsidiary Coal & Allied, in April, citing environmental and social concerns.
According to Kenyon-Slaney, the decision will put almost 1,300 jobs in danger and threaten the viability of the mine.
"Capital is particularly difficult to obtain for Australian coal projects in the current climate of high costs, reduced productivity, continued rent seeking by third party infrastructure providers, a high dollar and lower commodity prices," Kenyon-Slaney said.
He went on to say that uncertainty around the planning and approvals procedure could prove troubling to the entire industry.
Rio Tinto has filed a Supreme Court appeal against the judgment to suspend the mine expansion, which has been backed by a cross appeal from the Department of Planning and Infrastructure.
The company is also continuing a review of the mine in order to lower the impact on its workers and other businesses that rely on it.
Mount Thorley Warkworth mine, which has been in operation for 30 years, supplies international and domestic markets with up to ten million tonnes of semi-soft coking coal and thermal coal per annum.
Rio planned to extend the mine 15km south-west of Singleton further west and southwest, extending its life expectancy to 2031, and was given the ministerial consent to do so in February.
Image: Mount Thorley Warkworth coal mine supplies up to ten million tonnes of semi-soft coking coal and thermal coal per annum. Photo: Rio Tinto.