NSW mining jobs could be the by-product if Rio Tinto is successful in its application to expand one of its NSW coal mines.
The controversial mine expansion has angered environmental groups in NSW, however, Rio Tinto has a sweetener.
The Rio Tinto Mt Thorley Warkworth mine which is situated 15 km south west of Singleton in the Hunter Valley region of New South Wales, has been earmarked for expansion for some time now. The plans to expand the mine were triggered by the financial situation the mine finds itself in.
“Rio Tinto could not afford to wait any longer”
Rio Tinto Coal Australia managing director Chris Salisbury confirmed the mine has been under fiscal pressure and was a concern for Rio. Owing to the seriousness of the profitability and operational significance of the mine, it could not afford to wait any longer for the appeal decision to be made.
Expansion of the Mt Thorley Warkworth mine was granted by the NSW state government, but was then overturned in April 2013 by the NSW Land and Environment Court. The nearby residents of Bulga were successful in blocking the expansion by arguing the mine would create unacceptable noise and dust problems.
NSW government favours economic returns over residential impact
Since the awarding of the stop on mine expansion, the NSW government has adjusted laws pertaining to mine planning approvals.
The State Environmental Planning Policy is said to have the power to approve developments if project proved to be undeniably profitable to the state of NSW – regardless of community concerns about the impact of proposed new mining activity.
Local NSW residents angered over the result
The community of Bulga have cried foul on the legislative change that allowed mining giant Rio Tinto to reapply for the expansion.
Resident John Krey told the ABC “that SEPP amendment was invented to offset the findings of the Land and Environment Court and we believe that was pressure from Rio Tinto”.
“with the mine expansion comes NSW mining jobs”
Rio Tinto`s Chris Salisbury said the company will do what it can, including the biodiversity package, to alleviate local community concerns. With the mine expansion comes NSW mining jobs for the local communities which would benefit from additional activity – as is the case when mining meets local suppliers.
Rio has also tried to entice the community to get behind the expansion by including a comprehensive biodiversity offset package which includes 1800 hectares of Rio Tinto land to be made a national park.
Always concerned about its public image, Rio Tinto is well aware that some residents obviously have some concerns. Plans to continue talks with them are on the cards as the application progresses.
“NSW coal mine-life extended by 21 years to 2033”
Rio Tinto successfully applied for and were granted approval for a smaller expansion of the mine in January 2014.
The coal mining operation supplies international and domestic markets with up to 10 million tonnes of semi-soft coking coal and thermal coal per annum. Since its development many NSW mining jobs have been created and with extension approvals the life of the mine will be extended by 21 years to 2033.