Miner keen to expand operations

Wollongong Coal chief operating officer David Stone. Picture: ORLANDO CHIODO

Wollongong Coal chief operating officer David Stone. Picture: ORLANDO CHIODO

Wollongong Coal has lodged an urgent request with the NSW government to begin mining Longwall Six at its Russell Vale colliery, saying hundreds of jobs could be affected if approval is not given.

In its application to the NSW Planning and Infrastructure Department, the company - formerly known as Gujarat NRE - said the mine would be forced into “care and maintenance” if approval was not given.

The company said this would have “serious adverse impacts on more than 300 colliery employees as a result of reduced staffing needs during the care and maintenance period”.

The company also said allowing the mine to enter care and maintenance could make future operations unviable. 

The urgent request is separate to a much larger planned expansion which, if approved, would permit the continued operation of the colliery for five years and allow extraction of 4.7 million tonnes of coal.

Under the current permit, mining at Russell Vale is only allowed until October 14. 

However, coal stocks from longwalls four and five are expected to be exhausted well ahead of that date.

“To avoid significant impacts on colliery employees, and to mitigate potential risks associated with a prolonged care and maintenance period, the proponent considers it imperative to secure an interim approval for a small scale continuation of operations,” the application said.

It sought to have the first 400 metres of Longwall Six mined, as well as continued operation of the site until June 30 2015.

The company, which could not pay workers for more than six weeks in 2013, has again found itself in trouble of late, announcing in April it would look to cut jobs to reduce costs at the company’s Russell Vale and Wongawilli mines. 

Since the beginning of 2014, more than 50 Wollongong Coal workers have already lost their jobs through both forced and voluntary redundancies.

Wollongong Council push for submission changes

Wollongong City Council staff have pushed for significant changes to Wollongong Coal’s proposal to mine 400 metres of Longwall Six at its Russell Vale Colliery, including asking the company to conduct realignment works of Bellambi Creek to prevent future flooding.

At Monday night’s meeting, councillors are set to vote on a submission to the Department of Planning recommending Wollongong Coal’s mining takes place on the other side of Longwall Six to protect ‘‘two ‘special significance’ upland swamps’’.

Staff said the upland swamps were significant due to their ability to support a number of tree species. In a report to the council, staff said the other side of the longwall was free of these swamps.

‘‘This will help minimise any potential subsidence related impacts occurring upon these ‘special significance’ upland swamps,’’ the documents said.

Staff said the company should have completed the Bellambi Creek realignment works by December 2013, however had failed to do this.

‘‘Therefore the draft response also requests that NSW Planning and Infrastructure direct Wollongong Coal to expedite the required Bellambi Creek realignment and channelisation works, in order to minimise flooding impacts upon downstream properties,’’ staff said.

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