China-based Yancoal Coal Mining's wholly owned subsidiary Yancoal Australia is to proceed with the expansion of its Ashton coal mine in Hunter Valley, after the New South Wales (NSW) Land and Environment Court rejected the local community's appeal to halt the project.
The 315ha Ashton coal mine is located at Camberwell village, near Singleton in the Hunter Valley. It is 60%-owned by Yancoal Australia, 10% by Japan's Itochu, and the remaining 30% is held by several other organisations.
Before going ahead with the expansion, which would extract 16.5 million tonnes of coal for seven years, the court has ruled that the company must meet certain conditions, including those related to air quality, water resources and acquisition of properties.
Justice Nicola Pain said: "On balance, I consider that approval can be granted but that approval must be subject to adequate conditions about which a number of issues of clarification and possible alteration remain."
Yancoal investor relations manager James Rickards said: "We are taking the appropriate time to review today's determination and will continue to work with the court in the interests of achieving a final resolution."
Yancoal's plan to dig a new open pit to extend the life of the mine was initially rejected by the Planning Assessment Commission in December 2011, following opposition from the NSW Health and NSW Water.
However, in September last year, the court overruled the commission's decision; however, environmental groups and local communities later appealed against the decision.
The communities were concerned about potential coal dust pollution and the depletion of water sources due to coal mining, and the NSW Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) appealed against the proposed expansion.
EDO principal solicitor Sue Higginson said: "While the prospect of this mine being approved is disappointing for the Camberwell community, the wine growers and farmers downstream of the mine, there is still some scope for setting conditions designed to minimise adverse impacts on air and water quality and prime agricultural land."
Image: The Camberwell village and the Ashton coal mine in Hunter Valley, Australia. Photo: courtesy of EDO NWS.