Wollongong Coal has conceded its longwall mining plans under the water catchment will not be approved, and has started work on a proposal using a less damaging method of mining.
But the new proposal will seek to extend further under the sensitive drinking water catchment around the Cataract Dam’s feeder creeks.
The proposal to expand underground from its Russell Vale colliery has been held up in the Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) over concerns about the impact on the drinking water catchment.
Most seriously, the PAC required more information to show subsidence from mining would not cause serious damage to the creeks and swamps above, with the worst-case scenario being that the catchment could drain into the mine and suburbs below.
After fighting the PAC in court and losing, Wollongong Coal now said it will work to counter concerns about the environmental impact.
This would involve proceeding with bord-and-pillar mining rather than the more invasive longwall method.
“Considering further delays in obtaining approval and to counter the community concerns, the company has decided to and commenced working upon amending its current UEP [underground expansion plan] application from longwall mining plan to board and pillar mining plan [sic],” it said.
“The proposed zero-subsidence – long term stable mining plan is being designed principally to manage and avoid (if necessary) areas of uncertainty identified by PAC in their review report.
“The company is in process of preparing a detailed mine plan that will be extending beyond the longwall footprint as per current UEP to compensate reduced extraction compared to longwall operation.”
The plan is confirmed in the company’s annual report for the 12 months to March 31. It revealed a $7.2 million loss (compared with a loss the previous year of $182 million), on revenue of $36.2 million from sales of coal from Wongawilli. This mine is now at a standstill after contract operator Delta SBD was put in administration last week.
The year’s revenue of $36.2 million was up on the previous year’s figure of $8.1 million, and reflects sales from coal mined at Wongawilli.
The miner’s liabilities have now reached $757.7 million, which it said includes borrowings and “working capital facilities”.