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BHP’s Mt Arthur expansion exposes Minns Government’s broken promise

Lock the Gate Alliance has accused the NSW Minns Government of breaking an election promise by allowing BHP’s planned Mt Arthur expansion to be determined behind closed doors rather than referring it to the Independent Planning Commission.

The environmental assessment for the modification of the project was published on the department’s website today. Without this expansion, BHP’s approval to mine coal at Mt Arthur would expire on 30 June 2026.

Mt Arthur expansion at a glance:

  • 25 million of thermal coal to be mined each year until 2030

  • 193 million tonnes of GHG in total (see pdf page 60)

  • Two open cut pit voids left unrehabilitated

In the lead up to this year’s state election, NSW Labor promised that “new coal mine projects must be subject to an independent approval process”. See attached letter.

However, because BHP’s expansion of the largest coal mine in NSW has been arbitrarily designated as a “modification”, the project is undergoing internal government assessment only. 

Lock the Gate Alliance NSW coordinator Nic Clyde said, “The Planning Department should not be making a decision that would extend the biggest coal mine in NSW for another four years behind closed doors.

“The loophole which allows these big coal expansions to be arbitrarily treated as modifications needs to be amended, so that they are subject to proper independent assessment.

“The community has a huge interest in this project, both in terms of the damaged landscape BHP will leave behind, and in terms of the greenhouse gas emissions from four more years of mining.

“BHP plans to leave behind several unfilled coal pits that will gradually fill with salty water and will remain as a permanent hazard in the Hunter landscape long after BHP has wiped its hands clean of the project.

“Despite its commitment to act on climate, the Minns Government has made no changes to the existing pro-coal policies* of the previous NSW Government that facilitated a massive expansion of coal mining.

“Projects like BHP’s Mt Arthur expansion will significantly worsen the climate crisis, but these pro-coal policies effectively seek to ensure the projects are just waved through by decision makers.”

There are at least ten new coal projects working their way through various stages of the NSW assessment process. Collectively, emissions from these projects would total more than two billion tonnes.

ENDS

Media contact, 0447355565

*The pro-coal policies that need to be axed and why:

  1. The Net Zero Plan provides an exemption for mining projects, by noting that the objective of a 50% reduction in emissions by 2030 is “not to be considered in the assessment or determination of development and infrastructure applications under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979”.

  2. The Strategic Statement on Coal, provides explicit support for continuing coal exploration, the extraction and export of coal, and the expansion of existing mines, committing the government to “recognise existing industry investment by continuing to consider responsible applications to extend the life of current coal mines”. 

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