On Friday 4 October the NSW Independent Planning Commission (IPC) granted consent for the Rix’s Creek South Coal Mine Continuation Project and published this outcome as well as an official ‘statement of reasons’ on its website, only to withdraw the consent within a matter of hours due to an administrative issue relating to the assessment process.
The current Rix Creek Coal Mine has been operating since 1990. Its consent was initially set to expire on 24 June 2019 but was extended until March 2020, providing the IPC with additional time to complete its assessment of the mine’s long-term continuation consent application.
On Friday a statement of reasons for decision, development consent and media release was published on the IPC’s website indicating that a determination had been made in respect of the Bloomfield Group’s Rix’s Creek South Continuation of Mining Project (SSD 6300).
Within just a few hours of being up, the material was removed from the IPC’s website, as the deadline for additional information from the Department of Planning, Industry & Environment which was published on the Commission’s website, did not lapse until 5 pm that day.
The IPC decided to extend this deadline in order to provide any person who wishes to comment on the additional information with adequate time in which to do so. As such, the revised deadline for comment on the additional information was changed to Midday (12 pm AEDT) on 11 October 2019.
The updated consent would have cleared the way for operations at Rix’s Creek South Coal Mine to continue operating for another 21 years, would provide job security for existing workers would have flow-on effects for local communities and businesses.
The NSW Minerals Council was quick to comment on the actions, stating that 300 people have been waiting six years to find out if their jobs were secure into the future.
“Today they received good news, only to have the certainty they had been hoping for taken away from them again hours later,” the Council wrote.
“Projects like this involve massive investment and affect thousands of people. What should have been good news for NSW has turned diabolical, and once again the reputation of our state as an investment destination has been damaged.”
Even when the NSW Minerals Council was under the impression that an approval was made, it criticised the length of the assessment process.
NSW Minerals Council CEO, Stephen Galilee, said the project isn’t even a new mining operation but an extension of an existing mine – yet it’s taken almost six years to get an approval, including four years of assessment processes involving the Department and Planning and the IPC.
“This is an unacceptable timeframe caused by duplication, inconsistency and uncertainty within a complicated planning system that is acting as a deterrent to investment in NSW.”
“The proponent even had to lodge an interim short-term application for a nine-month extension of the existing operation because the overall assessment process was taking too long and placing the existing operation and jobs in jeopardy,” Mr Galilee stated.
“Projects in NSW are simply taking too long to assess, and the planning system has become a lottery where no one knows the rules that will apply from one application to the next.”
“The NSW planning system needs urgent reform to ensure shorter assessment timeframes and the policy consistency and certainty needed to restore investor confidence,” Mr Galilee concluded.