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MPs must overturn $956M coal project rejection says industry

South32 workers
South32 workers

A mining lobby group is urging political leaders to do everything in their power to unblock a $956 million coal expansion.

Members of parliament are being asked to intervene in the recent regulatory decision to block South32’s Dendrobium Extension Project, 8km west of Wollongong.

About 700 new jobs will disappear unless the state government overturns the New South Wales Independent Planning Commission’s refusal to approve the project, according to the NSW Minerals Council.

Stop ‘throwing away’ jobs

“The NSW Government must intervene to ensure this project is approved and can proceed, as recommended by its own Department of Planning,” council CEO Stephen Galilee said in a public statement.

“To do anything less will demonstrate a willingness to throw away billions in investment and the jobs of thousands of people at a time of significant economic need.”

Galilee described the standalone agency’s actions, which place the needs of about 50 objectors above hundreds of hard-working mine workers and their families, as an act of betrayal.

‘Dagger at the heart’

“The decision by the IPC to refuse the $956M Dendrobium Extension Project is a dagger at the heart of the Illawarra economy that will cost billions in investment and thousands of jobs,” he said.

“The refusal of this project will cost 700 direct local jobs at the Dendrobium mine and put the jobs of thousands more people at risk, including local contractors and suppliers, as well as thousands of jobs at the BlueScope Steelworks dependent on coal from the mine.”

However, the commission defended its judgment, claiming the objectors raised “significant concerns” about the mine design, subsidence, ground and surface water impacts, biodiversity and upland swamps, Aboriginal cultural heritage and greenhouse gas emissions.

‘Irreversible impacts’

“The longwall mine design put forward by South32 does not achieve a balance between maximising the recovery of a coal resource of state significance and managing, minimising or mitigating the impacts on the water resources and biodiversity,” the IPC said in its statement of reasons for decision.

“[T]he level of risk posed by the project has not been properly quantified and based on the potential for long-term and irreversible impacts – particularly on the integrity of a vital drinking water source for the Macarthur and Illawarra regions, the Wollondilly Shire and metropolitan Sydney – it is not in the public interest.”

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The commission also blamed the proponent for inadequately addressing community concerns in the mine design.

“The applicant has made minor amendments; however, the impacts remain significant,” the IPC said.

“The applicant has offered mitigation measures for remediation of selected key stream features, financial offsets for water losses and water quality impacts and an upland swamp offset site. However, a number of these measures have not been considered acceptable by the responsible statutory agencies.”

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