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NSW rejects Russell Vale colliery expansion on environmental grounds

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NSW rejects Russell Vale colliery expansion on environmental grounds

In its recentlyreleased second review report on the proposed expansion of the Russell Vale colliery in New South Wales, the statePlanning Assessment Commission deduced that the magnitude of the expansion's impactsto the environment outweigh its social and economic benefits.

In October 2015,the minister for planning requested the commission to carry out a second reviewof the project as Wollongong CoalLtd. continued to seek approval for Russell Vale's expansion and extracta further 4.7 million tonnes of coal from a small area of the mine over a five-yearperiod.

The commissionconsidered all available information including additional information provided byrelevant agencies and experts, as well as the project's benefits, such as generatingup to 300 jobs and about A$23.0 million in royalties to the state government, amongothers.

However, advicefrom WaterNSW, the authority responsible for the care and protection of the catchmentarea object, and the country's Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Coal SeamGas and Large Coal Mining Development have both identified significant risks relatedto the proponent's water modeling of the project's predicted impacts.

Furthermore,the commission's experts confirmed that the risk of water loss remains uncertain,with the projected range varying from negligible to as much as 2.6 gigaliters peryear, considered to be a "high risk situation."

With the uncertaintyon the potential water loss, the expansion's potential impact on upland swamps andan endangered giant dragonfly species remain uncertain as the swamps depend on thesurface and shallow groundwater while the giant dragonfly depends on the swamps.

Ultimately,the commission deemed that Russell Vale's expansion project does not meet the requirementsof the State Environmental Planning Policy (Sydney Drinking Water Catchment) 2011,specifically that "a project will have neutral or beneficial effect on waterquality," and recommended that any further consideration of the proposal shouldhave regard to the issues raised in its second review report.

The RussellVale coal mine has been in operation since the 1880s and was in September 2015 due to the continueddelay in securing approval to expand the mine and significant financial losses.