Australian mining giant Rio Tinto has submitted a fresh application to the New South Wales (NSW) Government to extend the life of its Mount Thorley Warkworth coal mine by 20 years, taking it up to 2035.
The Warkworth extension plan was previously rejected by the NSW Land and Environment Court (LAEC) on the grounds that the environmental and social costs would overrun economic benefits.
Rio Tinto appealed to the Supreme Court, but the court upheld the LAEC’s verdict, forcing the company to produce an alternative plan.
The latest proposal is said to have addressed some of the concerns raised by the LAEC and the Supreme Court.
The new application proposes a complete reduction of noise from all diesel-powered heavy mining equipment by December 2016, the commitment to providing more than 1,800ha of land towards an Upper Hunter national park and to spending $4m on a Warkworth Sands regeneration project.
Rio Tinto Australia coal managing director Chris Salisbury said the new application will not only extend the life of the mine, but jobs as well.
"We’re seeking planning applications to allow Mount Thorley Warkworth to continue operating and protect the jobs of its 1,300 workers," Salisbury said.
"We’re seeking approvals to continue operating until 2035 on land it owns within the footprint of its existing mining leases. We’re proceeding to follow where the coal resource is proceeding with mining in a westerly direction."
The company stated that the delay in getting the approvals has already resulted in a loss of one million tonnes of production this year and urged the state government to process its latest application without further delay.
Salisbury noted that their current planning approvals will allow the mine to maintain its existing production and employment levels only until the end of next year.