More than 500 Illawarra mining jobs have been saved after NSW’s top planning body signed off on a $20 million expansion of Gujarat NRE’s Russell Vale colliery on Christmas Eve.
Gujarat lodged an application in May to begin mining its No5 Longwall and has been awaiting a decision since exhausting coal supplies at Longwall 4 in September.
The Planning Assessment Commission panel said ensuring workers kept their jobs carried substantial weight in assessing the pros and cons of the proposal.
"There are some 284 jobs directly dependent on the decision and a further 236 indirectly dependent [but closely tied] jobs at the sister colliery [Wongawilli]," the determination report said.
"It appears to be common ground ... that if the modification is not approved both mines will close.
"The commission's approach will secure the continued direct employment of up to 520 people during the next phase of this project development."
Panel members also said they were satisfied a series of changes since the modification was lodged, including reducing the length of Longwall 5 from 1145 metres to 845 metres, would substantially reduce any environmental impacts.
However, some in the community have accused the panel of rushing its decision, having only received the assessment documents and recommendation on December 3.
Illawarra Residents for Responsible Mining (IRRM) urged the PAC to put off its decision until a public meeting could be held in February, saying the community deserved the chance to have its say.
The panel rejected the move, instead agreeing to have a meeting with several resident groups and government agencies, including IRRM, to discuss the proposal last week.
The panel acknowledged the situation did not satisfy community concerns, but believed it had been presented with enough to make an informed decision.