Authorities will give a mining company more time to produce coal and keep employing hundreds of staff.
The New South Wales Independent Planning Commission (IPC) recently approved SIMEC Mining’s plan to spend another 10 years operating its Tahmoor Coal Mine, about 80km southwest of Sydney.
The decision provides job security for the existing workforce of more than 400 until well into the next decade.
“This news comes as a great relief to the 400 directly employed mine workers at Tahmoor, ancillary staff at the mine and workers and businesses across the community who rely on Tahmoor for their livelihoods,” Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) mining and energy district secretary Andy Davey said in a public statement.
“While there are conditions to work through, the IPC has found that the extension is in the public interest and will deliver significant community and economic benefits.”
Davey believes the regulator agreed to the extension after learning about the benefits coal production brings to the Southern Highlands region. This happened despite political and developer opposition.
“Well done to everyone who spoke up for Tahmoor mine and the value of coal mining jobs. It is a terrific outcome in the face of a dirty tricks campaign by property developers and bizarre opposition from the local member [Wollondilly State MP Nathaniel Smith],” he said.
33M tonnes to extract
The decision lets subsidiary Tahmoor Coal extract 33 million tonnes of run-of-mine coal from 12 new longwall panels, south of its existing operations between Bargo and Tahmoor.
Metallurgical, coking and thermal coal will be processed using both existing and upgraded surface infrastructure before being transported by rail to the Port Kembla Coal Terminal for export.
Critics of the project had accused the extension of harming groundwater and surface water, particularly on Thirlmere Lakes.
They also complained about air quality, biodiversity, human health, noise pollution, Aboriginal cultural heritage, historic cultural heritage, visual amenity, mine closure and rehabilitation, greenhouse gas emissions, and economic modelling used to assess the project.
However, NSW IPC believed these reasons were not good enough to stop the extension.
“The benefits of the [Tahmoor South Coal] Project outweigh its residual costs, [and] that the project is in the public interest and is approvable,” NSW IPC said in a public statement.
“The proposed extension of the existing Tahmoor Coal Mine is strategically justified and is in the public interest, and that the identified impacts can be appropriately managed through the conditions of consent imposed.”