Shenhua Watermark approval - massive NSW coal mine

Shenhua Watermark approval – massive NSW coal mine

400 full-time jobs, 159 million tonnes, 3 huge open-cut pits

Shenhua Watermark

A massive $1.2 billion coal mine in NSW has finally been approved by Australian Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt. After years of deliberation, strong opposition and court battles, the mine looks like it will finally get off the ground, creating hundreds of permanent mining jobs in NSW.

Despite Federal approval, there is a looming challenge in the Land and Environment Court of NSW by the Upper Mooki Landcare Group, with claims that the NSW Planning Assessment Commission failed in its duty of care to take note of and assess the mine’s impact on the several hundred koalas living in the immediate proximity.

The Shenhua Watermark involves the building of a new open-cut mine, located 25 kilometres south-east of the northern NSW town of Gunnedah. and around three kilometres west of the town of Breeza. Some 789 hectares of  box-gum woodland and 148 hectares of other woods will be cut down to make way for the mine – hence the backlash from local residents and environmentalists.

Local farmers and conservationists are reeling from the Shenhua Watermark approval owing to the land proposed for mining being referred to as the ‘food bowl’ of Australia. The mine will be next to Liverpool Plains, which has fertile and valuable black agricultural soils that are well know for producing high-quality crops.

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There could be even more debate over mining in the Liverpool Plains region because BHP Billiton are also planning build their own coal mine out there.

35-square-kilometre hole

As for the size of the mine, it’s thought it will affect about 4,000 hectares of the fertile land, which includes about 800 hectares being listed as on the endangered list in terms of ecological significance.

Having a long life span of some 30 years, the Shenhua Watermark approval means the continual blasting of 3 huge pits.

The mine has a range of coal types – with 85 per cent of the coal to be mined from the Shenhua Watermark project thought to be semi-soft coking coal and the remaining 15 per cent being thermal coal – which is used to fire up power stations.

159 million tonnes of coal

Being a big mine with a huge coal deposit waiting to be extracted, the Shenhua Watermark owners indicated a possible production target of some 159 million tonnes of coal over the 30 year mine life-cycle. This has been broken up into around 133 million tonnes of metallurgical coal and 26 million tonnes of thermal coal.

In order to get the coal to the Port of Newcastle, a huge rail link is to be constructed, plus a proposed on-site, coal-loading facility will have the capacity to load 5,500 tonnes of coal an hour from the mine itself.

One of the most important processes for Australian mines is to increase the production rate, in order to keep the logistical systems running in-sync to maximise the costs of running such a huge network from the mine to the Port.

Mining jobs

Reports from the company suggest the new Shenhua Watermark coal mine project will support a workforce of around 600 employees during the 18-month construction stage.

Full-time production worker numbers are expected to be around 400 staff that will be permanently on-site to run the mine 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

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