Land and Environment Court stops Warkworth open cut mine expansion

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Today’s Land and Environment Court decision overturning the Minister for Planning’s approval of the Warkworth open cut mine expansion is a reminder that coal company Rio Tinto should stick to its word, NSW Shadow Planning Minister Luke Foley said today.

The expansion of the Warkworth Coal Mine near Bulga in the Hunter Valley has been overturned in a challenge brought by the Bulga Milbrodale Progress Association.

The Warkworth Coal Mine is operated by mining giant Rio Tinto.

Currently Warkworth Mine operates under the 2003 Development Consent within 6km of Bulga village. The expansion would have extended the mine to within 2.6km of the village.

The approval of the project required the Planning Minister to rescind the 2003 deed. It would have increased coal production by 18 million tonnes per annum and made Warkworth Mine the largest coal mine in the Hunter Valley.

“The company signed a deed with the former Labor Government in 2003 to ensure the community of Bulga and the threatened bush surrounding it were protected from unchecked future mine expansion,” said Mr Foley.

“I think Rio Tinto should honour its agreements – with government, local communities and its own employees.

"I have been to Bulga, met with locals and viewed the mine, the ridge and Bulga village with my own eyes.

"Bulga is a beautiful rural hamlet protected from a massive mine by a strip of bush, Saddleback Ridge.

“In 2003 Saddleback Ridge was identified as the buffer – the physical barrier – between Bulga and the open cut Warkworth Mine.”

In today’s decision, the Land and Environment Court rejected the expansion of the mine on the basis of environmental, dust and noise impacts. The project would have destroyed the threatened Warkworth Sands Woodland, clearing 765 hectares of woodland, native habitat for 17 threatened animals, including the squirrel glider, regent honeyeater and swift parrot.

“Labor does acknowledge the economic benefit to the Hunter Valley of this mine,” Mr Foley said.

“Considering the existing approvals for mining and the large underground reserves, Labor sees no reason for job losses from today’s decision.

“The company still has approval to mine coal for a long time into the future.”