NSW’s Independent Planning Commission has approved a new open cut coal mine in the Hunter Valley despite air pollution in the Singleton area already breaching national standards.
The IPC has granted approval to the contentious $381 million United Wambo coal mine expansion, which will worsen air quality in the Hunter and adding to global greenhouse emissions.
The ‘super pit’ will see the Wambo Coal Mine and United Coal Mine, which has been under care and maintenance since 2010, join as one new operation.
The companies behind the joint venture, Glencore and Peabody, told the IPC it would provide 500 full-time-equivalent jobs and could extract 10 million tonnes a year for 23 years, operating 24 hours, seven days a week.
The ABC interviewed former mining electrician Rob McLaughlin and his wife AnneMaree, who live near numerous coal mines at their home at Bulga.
They said while they were disappointed United Wambo Coal had been approved, they were not surprised.
“We ring the mines on a daily basis [about air quality] and we have to, when we ring up, determine which mine the dust is coming from, which makes it very hard because we are just surrounded by mines,” AnneMaree said.
“Their expansion is taking them over the ridge, which used to protect us a lot from noise and dust to a degree.
“So that means we’re going to have more dust, more light, more blast vibrations than we’ve ever had, and that’s a scary thought.
Pumping it out like there’s no tomorrow
“Here we are in a climate emergency and they’re just pumping it out like there’s no tomorrow,” she said.
Lock the Gate Alliance spokesperson Georgina Woods said, “This mine will increase harmful levels of particle pollution in the Hunter, which already regularly exceeds national air pollution guidelines.
“This mine is right in the central part of the Valley that is most badly affected by air pollution. Singleton residents will suffer as a result of this expansion.”
New export condition imposed
The IPC has for the first time imposed a condition that requires the mine owners – Glencore and Peabody Energy – to ensure the coal is only being exported to countries that are party to the Paris Climate Agreement, or are taking action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Woods said this was limited in its effectiveness, given the mine would still lead to nearly 260 million tonnes of additional greenhouse pollution in the atmosphere, which would have a direct impact on global warming.
“With the approval of United Wambo, the Planning Commission is burdening the future. It will add to the air pollution burden in the Hunter region and contribute hundreds of millions of tonnes of additional greenhouse pollution to the atmosphere,” she said.