The State Government has approved scaled-back plans for underground longwall mining at BHP’s Mt Kembla Dendrobium mine.
The plan, which was given the green light by the Department of Planning and Infrastructure today, is set to safeguard the region’s water supply while expanding mining efforts.
BHP sought approval for a subsidence management plan to mine 10 longwall panels at the mine in October last year.
The plan was required before mining could start, to manage potential impacts and determine how the mining would occur.
In making the decision, the department was satisfied impacts from the mining operation would be negligible on the region’s water supply.
However, the department has placed several conditions on the approval, including only allowing mining in the first five longwall panels, requiring BHP to gain further approval to mine the other five panels.
BHP has also been required to submit a compensation package for possible swamp impacts and to fund a five-year $3.5 million research program to improve scientific understanding and industry practice in rehabilitating upland swamps affected by mining.
While the department expects the expanded mining operations to impact on eight swamps, situated above the first five longwalls, there are around 1000 similar swamps, situated across the Woronora Plateau.
BHP has already completed mining across three areas in the Dendrobium complex, including mining near Lake Cordeaux, with negligible impacts on water supply.
The mine needed today’s approval to continue to operate.
The department also stated it would have preferred BHP to come to it with a draft plan much earlier, to allow additional time for it to be discussed and resolved.
The department will raise this issue with the Minerals Council of NSW as a matter of industry practice.
The Dendrobium mine employs 400 workers and supports another 600 indirect jobs.
It plays a critical role in supplying premium coking coal to the Port Kembla and Whyalla steelworks.