There are currently 12 coal mine development projects in the Sydney Basin bioregion, half of which are for time extensions to existing activities. One new mine is proposed and there are five identified coal deposits that have exploration either completed or ongoing.

Figure 9

Figure 9 Coal resource development proposals in the Sydney Basin bioregion as at January 2016

Data: Bioregional Assessment Programme (Dataset 1) Airly Mine Extension Project (Western Coalfield)

Airly Mine (Airly) is an underground coal mine operated by Centennial Airly Pty Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of Centennial Coal Company Ltd (Centennial Coal) (Centennial Coal, 2012b) (Centennial Coal, 2014b, p. 4). Airly is in the Western Coalfield, approximately 40 km north-north-west of Lithgow and 4 km north-east of Capertee (Centennial Coal, 2014a, p. 4). Airly produces thermal coal for the export market (DP&E, 2015d, p. 1). The mine is currently authorised to extract up to 1.8 Mt/year (Centennial Coal, 2012b) (Centennial Coal, 2014b, p. 10). Thermal coal mined at Airly is extracted from the Lithgow Coal.

Airly has operated under development consent (DA 162/91), which was modified in August 2015 extending its expiry date to April 2016 (Centennial Airly Pty Ltd, 2014, p. 1). The Airly Mine Extension Project proposed to extend mining operations into the eastern part of the existing mining lease to extend the life of the mine for a further 25 years. The proposal sought to expand underground mining operations beneath Genowlan Mountain, while maintaining the existing maximum rate of extraction of up to 1.8 Mt/year (Centennial Coal, 2014a, p. 4; NSW Planning and Investment, 2015a, p .3; DP&E, 2015k, p. 8). The proposed development was designated a ‘controlled action’ under the Commonwealth’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) and was assessed through an accredited assessment process under NSW planning legislation (Department of the Environment, 2013a). A variation to proposed action was subsequently made, which excluded mining operations in the previously approved MOD3 area (Department of the Environment, 2014).

In order for authorised mining operations to continue during the time required for the NSW Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) to carry out a review of the project and hold public hearings, Centennial Coal applied to extend DA 162/91 for a further six months from 31 October 2015 until 30 April 2016 (DP&E, 2015d, p. 4). This extension until April 2016 was approved in August 2015.

On 12 November 2015 the NSW PAC determined that the Airly Mine Extension Project could be approved, subject to stringent conditions (DP&E, 2015c, 2015l). There were 9 NSW PAC recommendations made, with the most significant one being around monitoring of potential subsidence impacts. The NSW PAC informed the NSW Minister for Planning about these outcomes on 12 November 2015, and the final determination to proceed now rests with the Minister (PAC, 2015b).

The operation proposes to use a combination of bord-and-pillar mining, panel-and-pillar mining and partial pillar extraction, depending on depth of cover and the void width required in each part of the mine. These methods have been selected to reduce subsidence impacts on sensitive surface morphology (Golder Associates, 2014, p. 488). Longwall methods were not deemed suitable to meet the design criteria.

Subject to conditions and limits, the project plans to use existing infrastructure and facilities including the rail loop and loading facility for rail transport of product coal to Port Kembla (Centennial Coal, 2012b; DP&E, 2015d, p. 4–5). The proposal includes construction of a new coal preparation plant, ROM stockpile and coal reject emplacement area (DP&E, 2015k, p. 8). On 28 August 2015, NSW Department of Planning and Environment recommended consideration and approval of the application (DP&E, 2015d, p. 5).

The 25-year extension will include 20 years of mining followed by 5 years of post-mining decommissioning and rehabilitation (DP&E, 2015k, p. 8). Angus Place Mine Extension Project (Western Coalfield)

Angus Place Colliery is jointly owned by Centennial Springvale Pty Ltd (50%) and Springvale SK Kores Pty Ltd (50%) and operated by Centennial Angus Place. It is 15 km north-west of Lithgow and 120 km west-north-west of Sydney (Centennial Coal, 2014b, p. 5). Angus Place Colliery is adjacent to another of Centennial Coal’s Springvale operation. Angus Place Colliery produces thermal coal (Centennial Coal, 2015a) for Mount Piper Power Station and previously also for the now closed Wallerawang Power Station (Centennial Coal, 2015a), although the mine was put into care and maintenance in March 2015. The existing development consent for mining operations will expire in August 2024 (Centennial Coal, 2014b, p. 5). Centennial Angus Place has applied for the Angus Place Mine Extension Project to ensure the mine is operational beyond August 2024 (Centennial Coal, 2012a).

Coal currently extracted from the Lithgow Coal (Centennial Coal, 2012b, p. 44) is processed at on-site facilities. Infrastructure includes a coal crushing plant and private haul roads to the power stations (Centennial Coal, 2015a). The project plan involves use of the currently approved operations, facilities and infrastructure of the Springvale mine, and aims to continue extracting up to 4 Mt/year of coal, with underground access from the current mining area. Secondary extraction (by retreat longwall mining) is also planned while continuing to use surface facilities at the Angus Place Colliery pit top (Centennial Coal, 2014c, p. 5). The project also aims to install dewatering and reinjection boreholes, install pipeline infrastructures and manage water through a combination of direct transfer, the Springvale Delta Water Transfer Scheme and licensed discharge points (Centennial Coal, 2014c, p. 6).

An environmental impact statement (EIS) was submitted to the NSW Department of Planning and Environment in April 2014 and a response to submissions was lodged by Centennial Coal on 1 October 2014 (Centennial Coal, 2014b, p. 5). The project has been determined to be a ‘controlled action’ under the EPBC Act, by the Department of the Environment (DP&E, 2015h). The IESC provided advice on this proposal in 2014 highlighting specific issues including subsidence, erosion and contamination, landforms, water, and other potential impacts as being relevant to this project (IESC, 2014). The project status as at 5 January 2016, is ‘proponent is preparing a response to submissions’ (DP&E, 2015h). Russell Vale Underground Expansion Project (Southern Coalfield)

WCL Russell Vale Colliery (Russell Vale) is an underground mine owned and operated by Wollongong Coal Limited (Wollongong Coal, 2015) (see Section 1.2.2). It is approximately 8 km north of Wollongong, 70 km south of Sydney. The mine produces coking coal for export via Port Kembla Coal Terminal (PAC, 2015c, p. 5).

The mine was approved to extract up to 1 Mt/year until December 2015 (PAC, 2015c, p. i). Coal production during 2015 was intermittent but longwall operations recommenced after refinancing was secured (Wollongong Coal, 2015). As of September 2015, Russell Vale has been in care and maintenance.

The Russell Vale Underground Expansion Project that was proposed in August 2009 by the former owner (PAC, 2015c, p. 2) originally sought to extract 31 Mt of coal over 18 years. The plan includes the mining of new longwall panels. Since the proposal was originally made, the plan has been revised, now seeking to mine 4.7 Mt over a period of up to 5 years through a reduced area of new longwall panels (PAC, 2015c, p. 3). The project plan includes new stockpiles, truck loading facilities and a designated coal dispatch road and a 6 ML settling pond in addition to an upgrade to the water management system (PAC, 2015c, p. 5). The plan is to extract from the Wongawilli Coal close to Cataract Reservoir, which is a protected part of Sydney’s drinking water catchment. The mine is currently approved to extract 1 Mt/year until the end of December 2015 (PAC, 2015c, p. i).

The project has been deemed to be a ‘controlled action’ under the EPBC Act (DP&E, 2015m; IESC, 2015). Water NSW and the IESC have stated concerns about the risk of water losses to the catchment, water quality impacts and associated treatment costs (PAC, 2015c, p. i) in addition to potential impacts on the ecology (IESC, 2015). In February 2015 a public hearing was held for the project and the PAC received submissions for and against the approval. The mine submitted its responses to the submissions in July 2015. As at 5 January 2016, the project is being assessed by the NSW Department of Planning (DP&E, 2015a, 2015m).

Note that the proposed underground expansion project for Russell Vale submitted a referral under the EPBC Act provisions, and was deemed a ‘controlled action’ in November 2014. Thus, it requires approval under the EPBC Act, which means approval from the Commonwealth Minister (unless referred) as part of the EIS approval process undertaken by the NSW Government. Springvale Mine Extension Project (Western Coalfield)

Springvale is an underground, longwall coal mine (Centennial Coal, 2014c, p. 5) jointly owned by Centennial Springvale Pty Ltd (50%) and Springvale SK Kores Pty Ltd (50%) as the Springvale unincorporated joint venture (Centennial Coal, 2014d, p. i). The Springvale mine is operated by Springvale Coal Pty Ltd for and on behalf of the joint venture (Centennial Coal, 2014c, p. 5, Centennial Coal, 2014d, p. i). It is located 10 km north-west of Lithgow and 120 km west-north-west of Sydney (Centennial Coal, 2014c, p. 5) and produces thermal coal for domestic and international markets (Centennial Coal, 2014c, p. 5). Further information on mining operations at Springvale is in Section 1.2.2 .

As the mine will operate with a significant water surplus of up to 18 ML/day, the mine is licensed to discharge water into the Coxs River (DP&E, 2015b, p. 2). In 2014, the IESC provided advice on the project to the Department of the Environment and the DP&E (IESC, 2014). A potential impact raised by the IESC was in relation to water storage in Cataract Reservoir and whether it may become impacted by loss of streamflow and baseflow. A potential impact identified by the IESC was that subsidence-induced cracking could create potential connectivity between the mine workings and the reservoir (IESC, 2014, p. 1–2).

The most recent mining consent for Springvale expired on 15 September 2015. The Springvale Mine Extension Project extends the life of the mine by 13 years followed by a period of rehabilitation to extract up to 4.5 Mt/year of ROM coal from the Lithgow Seam (Centennial Coal, 2014d, p. i; DP&E, 2015g, p. 4; DP&E, 2015b, p. 2;). Rehabilitation is also intended to be carried out as mining progresses (Centennial Coal, 2014d, p. ii).

In June 2015, the PAC reviewed and reported on the proposal (PAC, 2015d). The mine responded to the PAC review report and Centennial Coal consulted with the EPA and other stakeholders to develop a suitable management program (Centennial Coal, 2015d). In August 2015, the NSW Department of Planning and Environment (DP&E) issued a report that stated that the project is ‘on balance, in the public interest, and recommends that it be approved, subject to the recommended conditions of consent’ (DP&E, 2015b, p. 1). DP&E recommended that the PAC hold a public hearing on matters relating to the draft State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP) to consider submissions in relation to the SEPP and report on those matters (DP&E, 2015b, p. 28). On 21 September 2015, PAC stated that it was satisfied that the benefits outweigh the potential impacts and determined that the project should be approved subject to recommended conditions (PAC, 2015a, p. 2).

Development consent was granted on 21 September 2015 (DP&E, 2015b, 2015e). On 15 October 2015, the Australian Government, under the EPBC Act, approved the project until October 2035 with conditions attached related to threatened species and communities, swamps, and water resources (Department of the Environment, 2015a).

The proposal seeks to develop new underground access headings and roadways from the current mining area towards the east to provide access to the proposed operations (Centennial Coal, 2014d, p. i). The proposal also aims to transfer the operational management and physical infrastructure for coal processing and distribution infrastructure to the Western Coal Services Project (Centennial Coal, 2014d, p. ii). The proposal seeks to continue authorisation to transport up to 50,000 t/year of coal to local domestic customers by road haulage (Centennial Coal, 2014d, p. ii) and to install and operate two additional dewatering bores and upgrade the existing access tracks to bore facilities. The application states the mine will continue to use the existing Springvale Delta Water Transfer Scheme but also upgrade the construction to increase water delivery capacity from the existing 30 ML/day up to 50 ML/day (Centennial Coal, 2014d, p. ii; DP&E, 2015b, p. 2). Wongawilli Mine Extension (Southern Coalfield)

WCL Wongawilli Colliery (Wongawilli Colliery) is an underground mine owned by Wollongong Coal Limited (WCL), approximately 14 km south-west of Wollongong (WCL, 2015b, p. 1). The mine produces coking coal and was authorised under previous conditions to operate until 31 December 2015 (WCL, 2015b, p. 2). Section 1.2.2 provides further information about recent activity at Wongawilli Colliery.

Coal is mined from the Wongawilli Coal and the Tongarra Coal (WCL, 2015a) and transported to the Port Kembla Coal Terminal (WCL, 2015b, p. 2). The mine is currently authorised to operate six longwall panels and to process and transport up to 2 Mt/year ROM coal (WCL, 2015b, p. 2). Since September 2014, Wongawilli Colliery has been in care and maintenance.

In May 2015, WCL applied to NSW Government for an extension of operations to allow mining activities to continue until 31 December 2020 (WCL, 2015b, p. 1). No change to existing pit top facilities were proposed as part of the submission (WCL, 2015b, p. 2). Current approvals allow operations for a period of 50 months, but due to changes in mine ownership, only 8.5 months of development work and longwall coal extraction have taken place, with extraction from only one of the six approved longwall panels. WCL’s proposal to extend the timing of operations will allow extraction of the remainder of the 3.3 Mt resource (of which approximately 0.5 Mt has thus far been removed) (WCL, 2015b, p. 3). On 30 September 2015, DP&E recommended that the PAC determine that the modification be approved subject to conditions (DP&E, 2015n, p. 9). The project was approved on 27 November 2015 (DP&E, 2015j, p. 1) but as of May 2016, mining has not yet recommenced. Pine Dale Yarraboldy Stage 2 Extension Project (Western Coalfield)

Enhance Place Pty Ltd has sought to expand the existing Pine Dale Coal Mine under the Yarraboldy Stage 2 Extension Project. The plan aims to extract approximately 14.2 Mt of ROM coal up to a maximum of 2 Mt/year product coal by open-cut methods (PAC, 2012, p. 24) for a life of approximately 10 to 15 years (PAC, 2012, p. 24). The plan includes expanding open-cut pits by 210 ha, extracting up to 2 Mt/year for up to 15 years life of project, constructing and operating surface infrastructure, processing plant and transport by rail, public, and private roads (NSW Planning & Infrastructure, 2012, p. 2). In 2011, the Department of the Environment reviewed the project and reported that the project is not a ‘controlled action’ as the proposed project is unlikely to have an impact on water resources (SEWPaC, 2011, p. 1). An independent environmental audit (Enhance Place Pty Ltd, 2014a; URS, 2014) stated that there had been unforeseen delays in the progress of the Yarraboldy Stage 2 Extension project application, so the site has remained in care and maintenance for an extended period (Enhance Place Pty Ltd, 2014b, p. 1). The timing of progression of the proposed future development at Pine Dale Coal Mine through the relevant assessment processes remains uncertain. Hume Coal Project (Southern Coalfield)

Hume Coal Pty Limited proposes to develop and operate an underground coal mine with associated mine infrastructure, approximately 3 km west of Moss Vale (DP&E, 2015i, p. 1) and approximately 100 km south-west of Sydney (EMM, 2015a, p. E.1). Extensive exploration has been performed in the area since the 1950s; the current exploration authorisation was granted in 1985 and was acquired by Hume Coal in 2010 (EMM, 2015b, p. E.1).

The Hume Coal Project plans to operate for 22 years, mining coking and thermal coal from the Wongawilli Seam for international and domestic markets using a new ‘non-caving’ method developed to reduce the impact of subsidence (EMM, 2015a, p. 1; EMM, 2015b, p. E.1). The method will allow the strata overlying the mine to remain intact, supported using a system of engineered coal pillars. The mine will be partially backfilled with reject material and each panel will be immediately sealed after extraction and backfilling (EMM, 2015a, p. E.1–E.2). The project plans to extract over 50 Mt ROM coal over the life of the mine, at approximately 3.4 Mt/year (DP&E, 2015i, p. 1).

Rehabilitation is planned to occur progressively with post-mining closure and rehabilitation over a two-year period to a state that will support similar land uses to current land uses (DP&E, 2015i, p. 1; EMM, 2015a, p. 1). The proposed mining lease area is approximately 5000 ha where the water supply has been described as reliable with annual rainfall in the range between 570 and 870 mm/year (EMM, 2015a, p. 11).

The company applied for a site verification certificate in August 2015 (DP&E, 2015i). Hume Coal was issued with the environmental assessment requirements in August 2015 (DP&E, 2015f). The EIS is scheduled for completion in 2016 (EMM, 2015b, p. E.5). On 1 December 2015, the project was declared by Department of the Environment to be a ‘controlled action’. The project therefore requires assessment and approval under the EPBC Act before it may be processed, and will be assessed under the bilateral agreement with NSW (Department of the Environment, 2015b). Boulder Project (Western Coalfield)

Boulder Mining Pty Ltd is considered here as an exploration project/pre-feasibility study. It is situated 6 km east of Portland. As reported in the OZMIN database (Geoscience Australia, Dataset 2), Boulder has an identified coal resource of 4.9 Mt (measured resource). The tenement is EL 5899, which covers an area of 62 ha. The licence was extended in 2014 for a further term until 23 October 2018 (NSW Government, 2014a, p. 2883). However, there has been little evidence of recent activity at Boulder and no immediate development plans are evident. Neubeck Project (Western Coalfield)

The Neubeck Project is an exploration area near Wallerawang, 18 km north-west of Lithgow (Centennial Coal, 2015c; Department of the Environment, 2013b). It is within existing mining titles held by Centennial Coal. Centennial Coal is considering a relatively small open-cut operation to supply thermal coal to Mount Piper Power Station using existing private haul roads (Centennial Coal, 2015c). The project is considered to be a State Significant Development in accordance with the SEPP as reported in the briefing paper by Centennial Coal (Centennial Coal, 2012c, p. 5).

The OZMIN database (Geoscience Australia, Dataset 2) reports that Neubeck has a probable reserve of 18.1 Mt and total resource of 32.9 Mt of thermal coal. The project is anticipated to extract up to 1.2 Mt/year ROM coal for up to 11 years. Exploration drilling has taken place at the project area since 2005 and more recently groundwater monitoring equipment was installed. Geological evaluations were carried out in 2011 and 2012 to assess feasibility.

The project was previously known as Neubeck Wolgan Road Project (Centennial Coal, 2012c, p. 17). The project proposes to develop site and environmental infrastructure, clear and move topsoil for later use in rehabilitation, remove overburden and interburden, back fill mining strips, crush and screen ROM coal at Springvale Coal Services prior to supply to the power stations, and progressively rehabilitate the mine areas (Centennial Coal, 2012c, p. 6).

The project is listed as a ‘controlled action’ by the Department of the Environment and will require an assessment and approval under the EPBC Act before it can proceed (Department of the Environment, 2013b). As at 29 January 2016, IESC advice has not been requested. Inglenook Project (Western Coalfield)

Inglenook is an exploration project owned by Centennial Coal, located near Ilford between Lithgow and Mudgee (Centennial Coal, 2015b). The Inglenook Project is a collective of three exploration licences adjacent to the western rail line, thereby enabling direct access from the resource to Port Kembla coal terminal. Centennial Coal has previously undertaken exploration drilling at Inglenook to help define and characterise the coal resource, although no drilling has been undertaken since about 2014. More recently, onsite work has been limited to surface water and groundwater monitoring and the collection of meteorological data, although according to Centennial Coal, further exploration drilling may occur in the future (Centennial Coal, 2015b). As reported in the OZMIN database (Geoscience Australia, Dataset 2), Inglenook has an indicated coal resource of 54.4 Mt and an inferred resource of 202 Mt of black coal. There are no clear development plans or timeframes publicly available for the Inglenook Project. Running Stream Project (Western Coalfield)

Running Stream is an undeveloped coal deposit and exploration project approximately 60 km northwest of Lithgow, 35 km north of the Mount Piper Power Station. The lease is owned by Glencore (Xstrata, 2012, p. 11), listed under the Oakbridge Group. Analysis of the OZMIN database (Geoscience Australia, Dataset 2) indicates identified resources of 19.6 Mt measured, 69.7 Mt indicated and 190 Mt inferred. As at January 2016 there are no published recent reports of activity on this project. East Lithgow Colliery Project (Western Coalfield)

East Lithgow Colliery project, owned by Austen and Butta Limited from approximately 1976, is an exploration project that originally proposed to reactivate the previously active Hartley Vale Colliery that lies completely within the East Lithgow Colliery area (McElroy Bryan & Associates Pty Limited, 1979, p. 1). Austen and Butta Limited was taken over by Shell Australia Limited (Shell) in 1992 (delisted Australia, 2016). An extensive drilling program was conducted from 1977 to 1981, when 42 boreholes were drilled that indicated 123 Mt of coal resource within the Katoomba and Lithgow seams (Shell, 1994). Hydrogeological studies were also carried out. Economic conditions in 1982 dictated that the East Lithgow Colliery Project could not be justified. Since that time further discussions and analyses were undertaken by Shell, who in 1994 announced that discussions had taken place with adjacent collieries (Shell, 1994) and stated that an Authorisation renewal had been sought for renewal until December 1994. It was not clear whether the extension was granted but further activity has not been reported since 1994.

Last updated:
21 January 2019