‘Victory for nature’: Coal miner cuts plan in Blue Mountains

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‘Victory for nature’: Coal miner cuts plan in Blue Mountains

By Peter Hannam

Miner Centennial Coal has drastically scaled back plans for a mine extension in a sensitive area of the Blue Mountains, a move welcomed by environment groups who say rare upland swamps will be spared.

Centennial, owned by Thailand-based Banpu group, has submitted a new proposal for its Angus Place coal mine that has been mothballed since 2014. Instead of extracting about 135 million tonnes of the fossil fuel out to 2053, the revised Angus Place West project would dig up 12 million tonnes of coal over an eight-year period.

The threat of coal mining to a swamp in the Gardens of Stone area of the Blue Mountains has been reduced after Centennial Coal rewrote and  cut down plans for its Angus Place mine.

The threat of coal mining to a swamp in the Gardens of Stone area of the Blue Mountains has been reduced after Centennial Coal rewrote and cut down plans for its Angus Place mine.Credit:Nick Moir

The plan, if approved, would start operations once mining at the firm’s Springvale mine winds down. It would employ as many as 200 people and ensure coal supply for EnergyAustralia’s Mount Piper power station near Lithgow.

“The proposed [extension] project represents a flexible and more immediate coal supply option [for Mount Piper],” Centennial’s spokeswoman, Katie Brassil, said. It would also use so-called bord and pillar mining that typically results in less subsidence than long-wall methods.

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Environmental groups welcomed the reduced underground mining project, which will also shift operations away from about 350 hectares of nationally listed upland swamps on the Newnes Plateau.

They also hope it will open the way for the government to announce the long-awaited Gardens of Stone conservation area to help preserve the region’s remarkable rock formations.

“This is a great victory for nature, the climate and community campaigning over many years to protect the Garden of Stone from further damage by coal mining,” Chris Gambian, chief executive of the NSW Nature Conservation Council, said.

“The mine has already caused extensive ecological damage by draining and killing several wetlands of national significance. It is a relief that this threat to these unique ecosystems will now be safe.”

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Julie Favell, a spokeswoman for the Lithgow Environment Group, said the precise location of the smaller mining project remains to be disclosed and it could still undermine part of the Coxs River. However, swamps such as Tristar and Twin Gully would now be safe.

Conservation groups worry that plans for more coal mining in the area could lead to further destruction of endangered shrub swamps, such as at Carne West.

Conservation groups worry that plans for more coal mining in the area could lead to further destruction of endangered shrub swamps, such as at Carne West.Credit:Nick Moir

Centennial said it would aim to submit an environmental impact statement for its revised Angus Place West plan by the middle of 2022.

Penny Sharpe, Labor’s environment spokeswoman, also welcomed the reduced impacts. “The changes to the proposed Angus Place mine have the potential to better protect the iconic Gardens of Stone,” she said. “With these changes, the stage-2 proposal should be considered as a way to conserve this important wilderness.”

EnergyAustralia declined to comment. Its 1400-megawatt Mount Piper station supplies more than 10 per cent of NSW’s electricity and is the youngest of the state’s four coal-fire power plants.

The Herald approached local Nationals MP Paul Toole and Energy and Environment Minister Matt Kean for comment.

“The withdrawal of proposal is a sign of declining coal use locally and globally,” Mr Gambian said.

“Last year coal and gas generation in NSW fell by 9 per cent as it was replaced with new solar and wind generators.

“Financial analysts expect the Mount Piper power station to be unprofitable by 2025.”

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