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Mining longer with no clear closure plan? BHP’s Mt Arthur debacle exposes government failings

BHP's failure to prepare for the closure of Mt Arthur - NSW's biggest coal mine - exposes massive problems with how the State Government is regulating the sector.

Lock the Gate Alliance calls on the Minns Government to urgently create a rigorous standard to ensure mining companies prepare for the inevitable closure of their mines and protects Hunter Valley communities and the environment as the energy transition gathers pace.

BHP recently lodged an application to “modify” its Mt Arthur coal project which, if approved, would allow it to extend the life of the mine from 2026 to 2030, extracting 25 million tonnes of coal per annum. 

However, the proposal focuses solely on the mine extension and does not include any closure planning, with BHP instead proposing that a future development application will provide a Transition and Mine Closure Project.

Lock the Gate Alliance’s submission (available here) in response to the application accuses BHP of failing to properly plan for Mt Arthur’s inevitable closure. The public submission period for the project closed yesterday (November 20).

“How the Minns Government treats this coal mine expansion application will set the tenor for at least 17 other coal mines that are expected to close in the Hunter Valley in the next two decades,” said Steve Phillips, spokesperson for the Alliance.

“BHP has had a 2026 closure date for Mt Arthur coal mine since 2014, and should already have had a plan for closure, including support for the workforce and mine decommissioning.

“Instead, BHP now wants to mine coal for another four years, which will lead to worsening air quality, 193Mt of additional greenhouse gas emissions, and more direct environmental impacts on the Hunter’s landscape including two open cut unrehabilitated pit voids.

“BHP has also split this proposed mine extension off from its closure plan, so the community is still none the wiser as to what will actually be proposed after mining ends.

“The Minns Government should require BHP to submit its full closure plan at the same time as its extension project, so there can be rigorous assessment by the public and independent experts about the full package.

“The Mt Arthur situation highlights the failures of mine closure planning in NSW - without this, mines may close abruptly, leaving workers, the environment and the wider Hunter community in the lurch.

“It is crucial that the Government learns these lessons before it is too late and introduces strong standards for mine closures, including support for workers, money for ongoing environmental management, and broader community investment.”

ENDS

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