Community groups have slammed the government’s decision to approve the controversial Wallarah 2 coal mine on the NSW Central Coast, claiming they won’t cease fighting to stop its development.
The underground coal mine, to be developed near Wyong, plans to extract up to five million tonnes of thermal coal a year under the Wyong River catchment which feeds the Central Coast water supply.
In its approval of the proposal, the NSW Planning Assessment Commission said the environmental impacts, including subsidence and decreased water levels, could be managed and minimised to an acceptable level.
The coal mine was first proposed in 2006 but was refused in 2011 by the then NSW planning minister Tony Kelly because of its possible effects on water quality in the region.
Anti-mining group Lock the Gate spokesman Steve Phillips says the approval proves the “system is broken” and has called for changes to the mining laws.
“This is a risky, unwanted coal mine that threatens the safe drinking water supply for hundreds of thousands of people,” Mr Phillips said in a statement on Wednesday.
“The mine has been knocked back by a previous state government for those very reasons. How is it possible that the mine is now approved?”
Community group Australian Coal Alliance said it would consider every option available to stop the project going ahead, including going to court.
Since 2011 the application has undergone several reviews and modifications with the approved proposal including an agreement from the mine operator to provide at least 300ml of treated water annually into the catchment as compensation for any drops in water levels.
Despite saying the mine will economically benefit the community, the commission acknowledged the future of thermal coal was uncertain and unplanned early mine closure would have socio-economic and possible environmental impacts.
The commission has conceded subsidence will occur above the extraction area and the change in ground level has the potential to flood property and emergency access routes and impact built structures. But, the commission is satisfied the impacts on the surface and groundwater resources can be “acceptably managed.”
In addition to potential subsidence and water effects, the mine requires the clearing of 43.4 hectares of potential habitat for the vulnerable spotted-tail quoll.
NSW Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham called the decision a “disgrace” and said the Greens would stand with the community in opposing it.
“NSW should not be approving any new coal mines, let alone coal mines that threaten vital water catchments,” Mr Buckingham said in a statement.