The NSW Department of Planning has recommended approval for coal miner Gujarat NRE’s next longwall operation.
The approval of Longwall 5 at the NRE No 1 mine at Russell Vale would bolster Illawarra coking coal operations and help retain 330 jobs.
The proposal includes an application to extract coal from Longwall 5, as well as the construction of three underground access roads.
The department’s recommendations, made public yesterday, will be assessed by the NSW Planning Assessment Commission before a decision is ultimately handed down.
In a 28-page report, the department addressed concerns from environmental agencies and the community relating primarily to subsidence issues, biodiversity issues, groundwater management and Gujarat’s traffic management plan.
Environmental agencies including the Sydney Catchment Authority had raised concern over the quality of Gujarat’s subsidence modelling and the potential impacts of longwall mining on nearby swamps and groundwater - namely, nearby Cataract Creek.
However, the department pointed to proposal amendments made by Gujurat which it said made the project more sustainable.
‘‘Based on the information available, the department does not expect any significant subsidence impacts or environmental consequences on these important surface water features,’’ it said.
‘‘Surface water flow in Cataract Creek may be slightly reduced due to predicted minor increases in groundwater infiltration. However, such minor surface water losses are expected to report to the surface either further downstream in Cataract Creek, or else directly to the reservoir.’’
Included in Gujarat’s revisions was reducing the length of Longwall 5, from an initial 1145 metres to approximately 845 metres.
If the proposed extraction of Longwall 5 and construction of the underground roads are approved, the project will take approximately four or five months to complete.
In its submission, the company said mining extraction at Russell Vale would remain within the current limit of one million tonnes per calendar year.