The NSW Environmental Protection Authority and Muswellbrook Shire Council have lodged scathing submissions in response to the Mt Pleasant coal mine expansion proposal, highlighting the project’s contribution to air pollution levels that are already unacceptable in the area.
The submissions, which will now be considered by the NSW Planning Department, criticise proponent MACH Energy for failing to provide sufficient information relating to water use and raise serious concerns about the impact the expansion would have on the region’s already polluted air.
In fact, the EPA said based on the information provided in MACH’s Environmental Impact Statement, it was “unable to provide recommended conditions of approval for the Project”.
Muswellbrook Council’s submission also raised concerns that the size of the proposal’s waste rock pile may impact transmissions from the Rossgole communication towers.
“Given the integrated waste rock emplacement landform sits between the Rossgole transmission towers and parts of the town of Muswellbrook, the Proponent should investigate whether the emplacement would impact on transmissions.”
Lock the Gate Alliance NSW spokesperson Georgina Woods said the concerns raised by the local council and the EPA indicated thresholds had been reached for the scale of mining impact Muswellbrook should have to tolerate.
“People living in Muswellbrook and other parts of the Upper Hunter are already more likely than others around the state to experience respiratory and cardiovascular illness,” she said.
“The town is also increasingly experiencing more days where the official air quality rating is listed as ‘unacceptable���.
“A further expansion of this colossal coal mine on the doorstep of Muswellbrook is absolutely not what the doctor ordered to remedy this health crisis.
“Both Muswellbrook Council and the EPA raised serious concerns about the amount of additional particles and dust MACH’s expansion would create. There is a limit to what Muswellbrook can take, and it has been reached.
“Unfortunately, the NSW Planning Department has a track record of recommending approval of every coal mine project that comes before it, particularly in the heavily-mined centre of the Hunter Valley. For the sake of the people of Muswellbrook, we urge the department to change its approach and properly consider the cumulative impacts on the health of locals.”
MACH wants to increase the rate of coal extraction, handling and processing of run-of-mine coal up to 21 Mtpa from 10.5 Mtpa.
The expansion would extend the life of the open cut mine to 2048 and lead to the extraction of an additional 247 million tonnes of run-of-mine coal over the life of the project, through the mining of deeper coal seams and optimisation of the North, Central and South Pits.