THE proposed Wallarah 2 underground mine at Wyong has been given a significant boost with the NSW Planning Department saying there were no ‘‘environmental or amenity reasons’’ to stop it going ahead.
The mine’s owners have welcomed the announcement but a residents’ group, the Australian Coal Alliance, says it will challenge any approval in the Land and Environment Court.
An assessment report issued yesterday by the Planning Department says some government departments have ‘‘residual’’ concerns over issues that include groundwater impacts and subsidence of up to 2.6metres.
But the department says Wallarah’s ‘‘benefits outweigh its potential impacts and it is therefore in the public interest’’.
It has recommended the government-appointed Planning Assessment Commission approve the mine and has released a set of draft conditions it believes the mine should operate under.
The Wallarah venture began as a BHP project in 1995 but BHP Billiton (as the company became) sold its stake in 2005 to the South Korean government’s Korea Resource Corporation or Kores.
Kores intends to mine five million tonnes of coal a year for 25years, with another application likely to extend the expected life to 38years.
Wallarah would send four to six train-loads of coal a day into Newcastle for export, meaning another eight to 12 closures a day for the Adamstown and Clyde Street, Islington, railway gates.
The latest version of the mine has a capital value of $805million and would create 450 construction jobs for three years, and take 300 people to operate.
An earlier version of Wallarah was stopped by the former Labor government on the eve of the 2011 state election and Terrigal Liberal MP Chris Hartcher campaigned against it at the time.
Mr Hartcher and then opposition leader Barry O’Farrell were photographed wearing ‘‘water not coal’’ shirts at the time, leading the Nature Conservation Council to describe yesterday’s recommended approval as ‘‘a bitter blow’’ and ‘‘hypocrisy’’.
But Kores submitted a new application and the state government last year amended the planning act to ensure that economic benefit is a ‘‘principal consideration’’ in mine approvals.
Wallarah 2 project manager Kenny Barry said the planning department had concluded the mine would have minimal impact on underground water tables and would not adversely affect the Central Coast’s water supply.
Mr Barry said the impending closures of the Bluetongue Brewery and a Kellogg’s factory at Charmhaven meant jobs were needed on the Central Coast.
Australian Coal Alliance spokesman Alan Hayes said the planning department had ignored the concerns of 16 government departments in recommending approval.
EPA acts on Wambo discharge
THE NSW Environment Protection Authority has taken action against Wambo Coal after sediment from a creek diversion washed downstream into a natural creek.
EPA north branch director Gary Davey said Wambo Coal had signed an enforceable undertaking with the EPA as a result of the discharge that took place in early February 2013.
Wambo had spent more than $400,000 on civil works and remediation in relation to the diversion, and would pay Singleton Shire Council $30,000 to fund a river rehabilitation program.
It would also pay $7000 in legal costs to the EPA for the discharge.
The environmental harm from the event was rated as ‘‘low’’.
Mr Davey said that after heavy rain in early February 2013, EPA staff found that a lack of erosion controls along the diverted section of North Wambo Creek had contributed to the discharge of sediment.
‘‘The hot, dry conditions at the time meant there was a slower than normal growth of vegetation along the creek banks, with many of the seedlings the mine’s contractors planted failing to grow,’’ Mr Davey said.
He said that North Wambo Creek was a natural alluvial creek system that experiences intermittent flooding.