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Mt Thorley-Warkworth extension approved

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World Coal,

The New South Wales Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) has approved Rio Tinto's Mt Thorley-Warkworth expansion project, allowing the site to operate until 2036. 

“The commission considers that the project would deliver substantial benefits to the local government area and the Hunter region,” the PAC said in its Determination Reports for both the Mt Thorley and Warkworth parts of the project. “The Warkworth-Mt Thorley mine complex is the biggest employer in Singleton and is a very important contributor to the local and regional economy.”

Mt Thorley-Warkworth has been part of the Singleton community for 30 yr, spending AUS400 million with 530 New South Wales suppliers last year. The extension project will allow mining at the Warkworth pit to extract a further 230 million t of coal over 21 additional years of operation. Meanwhile, mining at the Mt Thorley pit will continue at a rate of 10 million tpa of ROM coal to 2022. After that, the Mt Thorley site will continue to operate to provide services to the Warkworth site, taking tailings and overburden. The two sites are operated as an integrated operational complex.

According to the PAC assessment, the Mt Thorley-Warkworth complex will produce around 10% of New South Wales’ total volume of export coal, providing employment for well over 1000 people and making royalty payments of almost AUS$570 million to the state. Rio Tinto estimates the benefits to the New South Wales economy of continued operation will total AUS$1.5 billion from wages, roylties and taxes over the life of the mine.

"This approval will come as a great relief for thousands of people across Singleton and the Hunter Valley - from our 1300 employees and their families to people working at the hundreds of local businesses that supply the mine and community groups it supports," a Rio Tinto spokesperson told World Coal in an emailed statement. Around 2000 people lodged submissions with the PAC in the lead up to the public meeting supporting a strong future for the mine.

The PAC decision strengthens conditions relating to screening the final void at Warkworth and the emplacement of overburden at Mt Thorley to backfill the void, as well as conditions relating to the Biodiversity Management Plan at Warkworth and noise and air quality impacts, including the web publication of real-time noise and air monitoring.

“The final approval today from the Planning Assessment Commission for the expansion of [the] Mount Thorley Warkworth mine is welcome news for the mine’s 1300 mining workers and their families,” said the New South Wales Minerals Council is response to the ruling. “This decision will secure these direct mining jobs, as well as thousands of other jobs in related industries and businesses across the region.”

The approval is also good news for any future sale of the mine. Rio Tinto has made it clear that it would consider offers for its coal business with the mining company recently concluded a deal with New Hope Corp. to sell its stake in another Hunter Valley mine – the Bengalla mine – for US$606 million.

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