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Glencore refuses to defuse billion tonne climate bomb planned for Hunter Valley

Glencore and Yancoal are both unwilling and unable to seriously mitigate large amounts of direct greenhouse pollution from a huge open cut coal mine expansion planned for the Hunter Valley, according to a recent response from the joint venture to the NSW Government.

Lock the Gate Alliance says the new information proves that stopping the planned Hunter Valley Operations expansion is the only option to avoid its climate impact. 

If built, the project would be responsible for 1.2 billion tonnes of greenhouse pollution - roughly eight times NSW’s annual emissions - including 29.3 million tonnes of direct emissions mostly from fugitive methane and the burning of diesel in trucks and equipment.

The project* has also just been deemed a “controlled action” for federal assessment under the terms of the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. However, due to the limitation of the Act, the contribution the project will make to climate change is not clearly required as a consideration.

This all comes shortly after the NSW Government passed landmark legislation to implement its net zero by 2050 commitment and a 70 percent emissions reduction target by 2035. 

The HVO proposal has previously attracted criticism from the NSW Government because its emissions are so large, it would force other sectors of the state’s economy to ramp up their decarbonisation efforts so the state can achieve net zero emissions by 2050.

Lock the Gate Alliance Head of Research and Investigations Georgina Woods said, “Glencore and Yancoal’s response about the huge fugitive and diesel burning emissions from their planned coal mine expansion shows they have no plans to reduce this pollution.

“A coal expansion of this size is incompatible with the state’s new emissions reduction goal of 70 percent by 2035. Glencore and Yancoal need to give up on this polluting climate bomb. 

“New South Wales cannot afford to approve this mine expansion. Doing so will blow the state’s local emissions budget and make the decarbonisation task harder for every other business.”  

The documents also expose flaws in the Albanese Government’s Safeguard Mechanism when it comes to reducing emissions from open cut coal mines.

The expansion project would not be subject to a declining emissions baseline until 2034. However, once this date passes, direct emissions are still expected to continue increasing. 

Direct local emissions from the operation will be highest in 2045, when they will be nearly eight times the “baseline” level.

Ms Woods said, “Glencore and Yancoal have made it clear they will increase direct greenhouse pollution from the Hunter Valley Operations coal expansion, right out until 2045 when they say part of the mine will finally close.

“This exposes the holes in the Albanese Government's Safeguard Mechanism scheme when it comes to open cut coal mining in particular. 

“Coal mines must not be allowed to increase their emissions under a policy that is meant to reduce greenhouse gas pollution. It’s a perverse outcome."



The Energy and Climate Change Division of the NSW Department of Planning in February this year sought further information from Glencore and Yancoal’s Hunter Valley Operations Joint Venture about the proposed mine expansion. 

In addition to more detailed calculation of fugitive emissions, the department asked the joint venture to investigate low emissions technologies and pre-mine drainage of methane as greenhouse emissions abatement options. 

In the joint venture’s response, they say:

  • Direct emissions from the project will keep rising until 2045, opposite to the declining emissions trajectory required for a Net Zero by 2050 pathway.

  • The joint venture claims there are no feasible options to reduce direct greenhouse gas emissions at the mine. It says it will not consider pre-mine drainage for 20 years.

  • The lifecycle emissions of the project are immense, amounting to 1.2 billion tonnes of carbon pollution, almost eight times NSW total annual emissions.

*While NSW and federal authorities are assessing HVO North and HVO South expansions concurrently, they are run together as one huge mining operation.

Image: Emissions estimates and “baselines” for Hunter Valley Operations Continuation Project (source: Submissions report, November 2023)


Image: Emissions estimates for Hunter Valley Operations Continuation Project showing rising “emissions intensity” - Mt per tonne of coal produced. Source: Submissions report, November 2023)




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