Wollongong Coal: cut red tape or 200 jobs go

File picture.

File picture.

Wollongong Coal has taken its threats to close its Russell Vale mine to the federal government, telling Canberra that 200 people will be retrenched if it does not get fast-tracked permission to continue longwall mining.

The company has been unable to conduct longwall mining at Russell Vale since late last year, lacking the necessary state planning approvals to continue operating its longwall machines.

Applications for Wollongong Coal's underground expansion project are before NSW planning authorities and going through the mine assessment process.

Meanwhile, the company wants permission to start mining 400 metres of longwall No 6.

The miner's application has been referred to the Commonwealth environment department for a decision on whether its environmental impact will be of national significance.

If the decision is yes, a full assessment will need to be undertaken under federal environment protection laws.

The referral to the Commonwealth is on public exhibition.

Wollongong Coal's application states that it needs to start work quickly, as it has almost run out of approved development work that it can do at Russell Vale.

"Time is of the essence for this action - no coal extraction is occurring at present due to pending approvals," it said.

"If the action was not taken, the Russell Vale colliery would be placed under care and maintenance upon completion of currently approved activities. This would involve the retrenchment of approximately 200 employees."

Wollongong Coal, formerly Gujarat NRE Coking Coal, has been dogged by approvals problems since before its name and management changed last year.

Instead, it has sought to rely on a series of piecemeal subsidence management plans to allow work to continue, but this method has tested the patience of NSW planning authorities.

"Project approval for the underground expansion project ... is required to facilitate further coal extraction and mining-related activities," Wollongong Coal's federal application says.

"[This] is not expected to be determined in the near future.

"To ensure ongoing employment for the current workforce, the action needs to be undertaken as soon as the appropriate approvals are obtained. There are no alternative time frames for the action."

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