The New South Wales Independent Planning Commission (IPC) has approved, with conditions, an extension to the Mangoola Mine, located 20 kilometres west of Muswellbrook in the Upper Hunter.
Owned by Mangoola Coal Operations Pty Ltd, a subsidiary of Glencore Coal, the proposed Mangoola Coal Continued Operations (MCOO) Project involves the extraction of an additional 52-million tonnes of run-of-mine coal through to December 2030.
The proposed project will utilise existing Mangoola infrastructure including coal washing and train loading, workshops and administration facilities and involves the construction of a haul road overpass over Wybong Road. It is expected to create 145 construction and 80 operational jobs, and provide ongoing employment for 400 workers.
The Department of Planning, Industry & Environment finalised its whole-of-government assessment of the MCOO Project in January this year, which concluded the project was “approvable, subject to comprehensive conditions”, yet the IPC is the consent authority for the state significant development application (SSDA) as the Department received more than 50 ‘unique’ public objections to the project.
Commissioners Professor Snow Barlow (Panel chair) and Peter Cochrane were appointed to consider the SSDA. They met with the Applicant, Department and Muswellbrook Shire Council; inspected the site and surrounding areas; and hosted a two-day electronic public hearing in March to hear community views.
The IPC also received 895 written public submissions, including 776 in support, 107 objections and 12 neutral comments. Supporters of the proposed mine extension cited the projected social and economic benefits to the local area, Upper Hunter region and to NSW, including job creation and retention.
Those opposed to the project raised concerns about air quality, biodiversity, greenhouse gas emissions and climate change, impacts on water resources, noise impacts, traffic and transport impacts, socio-economics, Aboriginal cultural heritage, and rehabilitation.
As a result of concerns raised about air quality, the IPC met with the Environment Protection Authority, NSW Health and the Department to discuss air quality trends and impacts in the Upper Hunter.
After considering all the evidence and community views, on 26 April 2021, the IPC determined to approve the state significant development application, subject to 179 conditions – finding that “on balance and when weighed against the objects of the [Environmental Planning & Assessment] Act, ecologically sustainable development principles, the current policy frameworks, and socio-economic benefits, the impacts associated with the Project are acceptable and the Project is in the public interest.”
In its Statement of Reasons for Decision, the IPC noted the project “represents a reasonable ‘brownfield’ extension of the existing Mangoola Coal Mine that would enable the economic and beneficial reuse of existing infrastructure and an orderly and economic use of land.”
“Notwithstanding the concerns raised … the Commission finds that on balance and when weighed against the impacts under the current policy and regulatory framework, the Project would generate net-positive social and economic benefits for the local area, Hunter region and to NSW” it added.
The conditions of consent imposed by the IPC seek to:
- Prevent, minimise and/or offset adverse environmental impacts;
- Set standards and performance measures for acceptable environmental performance;
- Require regular monitoring and reporting; and
- Provide for the ongoing environmental management of the development.
The IPC’s Statement of Reasons for Decision is available here.