BY ELIZABETH FABRI
THE controversial Wallarah 2 underground coal mine has the tick of approval from the NSW Government to begin development.
In mid-January, the NSW Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) declared the Wyong Areas Coal JV project on the Central Coast “in the public interest” and granted consent for it to produce up to 5 million tonnes of run of mine (ROM) thermal coal a year for 25 years, subject to conditions.
“The Commission heard and acknowledged strong calls for it to take a precautionary approach given the potential for impacts to the Central Coast’s drinking water supply catchment,” PAC stated.
“The issue has been assessed in detail. Impacts were assessed to be small and acceptable, with no net impact on the availability of water for the Central Coast drinking water supply catchment during the life of the mine.
“Impacts and potential risks can be appropriately managed through the framework of rigorous controls and requirements in place to manage, mitigate, minimise, compensate and offset those impacts.”
The Wallarah 2 mine has been on the drawing board for some time; the first application was lodged in 2006, which was refused in March 2011 by the then Minister for Planning.
In late 2012, a new application was lodged and subject to a PAC review in 2014.
However a dispute over land access with the Darkinjung LaLC led to the lodgement of an amendment development application in July 2016.
PAC said the project, once developed, would create up to 300 operational jobs, 450 construction jobs, and significant investment for the local area and royalties for the State.
Wyong Coal general manager Peter Allonby told S&P Global Platts he anticipated construction to start next year, with coal development beginning in 2021, and longwall production in 2022.
“The project will now move to the next stage of evaluating the approval details, scoping additional approval and licensing requirements, detailed design work and completing a final feasibility study,” Mr Allonby said.
The Australian Coal Alliance said it had commenced a legal challenge against the PAC’s decision to approve the mine.
In late January more than 200 people met in Ourimbah to back the Australian Coal Alliance’s campaign to block the project from going ahead.
Wallarah 2 said it will hold community consultations on the last Wednesday of every month, beginning in February.