Planners raise coal concerns
The NSW planning department has recommended that a new Hume Coal mine be refused.
Government officials have found environmental concerns and the potential impacts on landowners in their assessment of Hume Coal’s plans.
The company wants to extract 50 million tonnes of coal over 19 years from a new underground mine in the Southern Highlands region, on the only greenfield site under assessment by the NSW government.
Hume Coal also proposed building a $37 million rail line to support the operation near Berrima.
But last week, NSW’s Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE) referred the project to the Independent Planning Commission (IPC) for a public hearing ahead of a final determination.
For its part, the department recommended the application be rejected.
“The department is not satisfied that the project achieves a reasonable balance between recovering a recognised coal resource of state significance and minimising the potential impacts on the environment and surrounding land users as far as practicable,” the DPIE said.
“In weighing the merits of the project, the department acknowledges that it would have a number of benefits, including generating some 415 jobs during construction and up to 300 jobs during operations … and generating around $200 million in royalties and company taxes for NSW.
“However, the department does not believe that these and other benefits outweigh the project's actual and potential environmental and social impacts.”
The department said there would be an “unacceptable” impact on many groundwater users' bores and would be incompatible with rural land users in the vicinity.
“The impacts are likely to lead to significant dispute and disruption in the local community,” the department found.
“The project would have amenity impacts on a number of rural-residential land users in the Medway Road area, including noise and visual impacts, as well as impacts on the cultural landscape.”
It also raised concerns about Hume Coal’s plan to use the “unconventional” pine feather mining method, which has not been used in NSW or on any similar geological environments before.
The DPIE said it would have “potential workplace health and safety risks”.
Hume Coal's project manager Rod Doyle says it is a “brutal” report.
“We strongly disagree with their position on a number of issues, in particular our credentials on environmental issues,” Mr Doyle said.
“The mine that's proposed has an extremely low footprint in terms of carbon emissions, it has negligible subsidence, it is looking at a number of functions to try and minimise the footprint of a new coal mine compared to those of existing coal mines.
“There are a lot of different areas where we would take the department to task on what they've said.
“The IPC decision in three months' time will be a final decision and we will accept that decision.
“It has been a brutal report from the DPIE, but I maintain faith in the IPC that it will judge the merits of the case and not the emotion of the department's report.”