Skip to main content

Rio Tinto reveals new plan for Warkworth expansion

World Coal,


A new planning application to maintain output at Coal and Allied’s Mt Thorley Warkworth mine in the Hunter Valley has been lodged with the New South Wales (NSW) government.

The proposal by mining giant Rio Tinto would extend the life of the super pit for a further 20 years.

The Warkworth extension has been the subject of major controversy, as an initial plan for the mine extension was rejected by the NSW Land and Environment Court (LAEC) – due to a belief that the environmental and social costs of such an extension would outweigh any economic benefit. Rio Tinto appealed to the Supreme Court, which was widely expected to overturn the ruling, however, the court upheld the LAEC’s verdict.

The new proposal seeks to address some of the concerns raised by the LAEC and Supreme Court.

Among the commitments for the project is an offer to complete the noise reduction program for all diesel powered heavy mining equipment by December 2016.

Rio Tinto Coal Australia managing director, Chris Salisbury, said the latest application involves the existing mine site: "We're seeking planning applications to allow Mount Thorley Warkworth to continue operating and protect the jobs of its 1300 workers," he 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," Salisbury added.

The mining giant is calling on the state government to process its latest application without further delay.

Salisbury said current uncertainty over planning approvals for the super pit would affect the mine's profitability. "Our current planning approvals will only allow the mine to maintain its existing production and employment levels until the end of next year,” he said.

"We've been working for close to five years now to secure a long term future and we're really running out of time. The fact that we've had a delay to getting our long term approvals has already cost us one million tonnes of production this year," Salisbury said.

Sue Higginson, principal solicitor for the Environmental Defenders Office NSW, stated: “The Court of Appeal found no fault with the Land and Environment Court decision that the economic benefits of the coal mine did not outweigh the significant impacts on Bulga residents and the destruction of rare forests containing endangered plant and animal species.”

Detrimental to the environment

The Warkworth extension plan drew the ire of Australian citizens and environmental campaigners, mainly because the extension threatened to severely impact local residents, while also threatening destruction of rare forests.

Sue Higginson, principal solicitor for the Environmental Defenders Office NSW, stated: “The Court of Appeal found no fault with the Land and Environment Court decision that the economic benefits of the coal mine did not outweigh the significant impacts on Bulga residents and the destruction of rare forests containing endangered plant and animal species.”

 

New planning application documents

A planning application and Environmental Impact Statement for the Warkworth Continuation project will be on public display for six weeks.

Dr Brian Fisher, of BAEconomics, has provided a new economic assessment of the mine extension, which purports to show the economic benefits do, in fact, outweigh the threat to local residents and the environment.

In a press release issued by Rio Tinto, Dr Fisher is quoted: "I have undertaken a rigorous economic assessment using the most robust approach currently available, through a different methodology to that used in previous assessments. These results are highly conservative and I believe the actual economic benefits for the Hunter Valley and NSW could well be far greater.”

Dr Fisher observed that "the cost-benefit analysis clearly shows there are significant economic benefits for NSW from Mount Thorley Warkworth mine continuing to operate”.

“A large share of US$ 1.5 billion will go to the employees and, of course, a large share goes to the New South Wales government in terms of royalty payments," Fisher added.

He concluded: "If the Warkworth Continuation is not approved the impacts to the region will include increased unemployment, a reduction in average wages and even a negative impact on the value of property in the Singleton area."

Edited from various sources by Sam Dodson

Read the article online at: https://www.worldcoal.com/coal/25062014/controversial_warkworth_expansion_back-__the_agenda_1018/


 

Embed article link: (copy the HTML code below):