Environment groups challenge government’s approval for Centennial Coal Springvale coal mine expansion

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Coal is stockpiled at the Blair Athol mine at the remote Bowen Basin coalfield near Moranbah June 1, 2012. The property crunch engulfing Moranbah and other communities peppering the Bowen Basin, a 60,000-sq-km (23,200-sq-mile) moonscape of open pit mines supplying most of the world's coal for steel making, is one of a swelling number of downsides associated with the Australian mining boom. Add to the list rising food prices, constant truck traffic, outbreaks of sexually transmitted diseases and near-non-existent health care to name a few, according to town residents, health professionals, mine workers and community advocates interviewed by Reuters. Picture taken June 1, 2012. Reuters/James Regan

The federal government’s approval of the Centennial Coal Springvale coal mine extension has been challenged by environment groups on grounds that the move doesn’t comply with the 2011 State Environmental Planning Policy. Under the policy, only projects that have neutral or beneficial effects on the area will be approved.

The Springvale coal mine near Lithgow managed to procure the final approval from the independent Planning Assessment Commission in September 2015 after having been backed by the Planning Ministry. Alongside producing 4.5 million tonne of coal every year, the mine will release untreated waste-water into the Coxs River, Sydney’s second largest source of water for the main water reservoir at Warragamba dam.

The approval came as good news to the 230 miners who were laid off when the approval was being sought. Centennial Coal spokeswoman Katie Brassil said that the company will get its workforce back as soon as possible, after the approval.

The groups led by 4nature found no evidence that the government took the SEPP under consideration while approving the project. According to 4nature’s president Andrew Cox, the mines will produce 19 megalitres of waste-water comprising of salts, metal and other materials.

"How can you possibly rationally conclude that the mine isn't lowering water quality?" the Sydney Morning Herald quoted Cox as saying.

The case was filed on Dec. 18 by the Environmental Defenders Office of NSW, and the matter will be heard in court on Feb. 12. 4nature said that operations at the Springvale will remain unaffected until the court ruling.

"It is important that the community is able to ensure that decisions are legally robust, and we respect the EDO's right to take this action following the decision by the independent [PAC]," Planning Minister Rob Stokes said.


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