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NSW Planning Department criticised for coal project referral

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World Coal,

The NSW Planning Department has said it had strengthened conditions applying to the expansion of the Rio Tinto coal mine project. The department released the statement defending its decision to refer a planned the planned project in the Hunter Valley to the Planning Assessment Commission.

In its final assessment report, the planning department has recommended that the Planning Assessment Commission approve the expansion of Rio's Warkworth coal mine, despite the project intruding into the village of Bulga.

As part of the recommendation, a spokesman for the planning department said that Rio Tinto must complete a AUS$30 million "noise reduction program" for equipment and trucks before the end of the year, and contribute AUS$11 million to Singleton Shire Council to improve local services and infrastructure, including for Bulga.

Furthermore, the mining company must offset an extra 40 hectares of land at North Rothbury to assist in the protection of two endangered ecological communities and one critically endangered plant species.

The PAC is anticipated to take multiple months before coming to a final decision on whether the expansion can proceed. The commission is also yet to decide whether to hold further public hearings on the project.

Rio said benefits of the mine's continued operation included AUS$1.5 billion to the NSW economy in wages, royalties and taxes. The mine also spent AUS$154 million with 196 local suppliers, AUS$400 million with 530 NSW suppliers and AUS$629 million with 743 suppliers across Australia.

Edited from source by Joseph Green. Source: Sydney Morning Herald

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