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Minns Government’s first coal off the rank a minefield of water, legal woes

A NSW mine that faced enforcement action after illegally taking water could be the first coal project in the state to be given approval to expand under the new Labor Government, despite continuing to rely on water from the same source in breach of its existing approvals.

Lock the Gate Alliance last week wrote an urgent letter (available here) to the government highlighting how Idemitsu intends to continue relying on water from what’s known as the Bluevale Water Source for its Boggabri Coal mine “modification eight”.

Three months ago, the Natural Resources Access Regulator entered into an “enforceable undertaking" with Idemitsu after the company was found to have stolen more than 500 Olympic swimming pools’ worth of water from the Bluevale Water Source during the last drought.

In the very week this undertaking was signed, Idemitsu submitted documentation for its expansion plan which claimed that historically the company “has been able to obtain adequate water entitlements for its operations”. 

Lock the Gate’s letter accuses the NSW Planning Department of failing to remedy this, and highlights how Idemitsu explicitly plans to continue using water from the Bluevale Water Source for its expansion and does not have sufficient water licences to cover its demand in drought conditions.

The Planning Department is expected to make a decision regarding the Boggabri coal mine modification eight project any day now. If approved, it would give Idemitsu permission to dig deeper into the coal seams, allowing it to operate until 2036. The modification would be responsible for 63 million tonnes of CO2-e (see page 3).

Because it is classed as a “modification”, the decision on whether or not to approve the project will be made by a Department of Planning official without any involvement of the Independent Planning Commission.

Lock the Gate Alliance research coordinator Georgina Woods said, “The Minns Government needs to pull the Department of Planning into line before it recklessly grants approval to Idemitsu to mine deeper, for longer, at Boggabri. 

“This mine has been operating in breach of its consent conditions for years and clearly will not be able to lawfully cover its water demand in the next awful drought.

“The Minns Government has not reviewed or fixed the flawed coal mining policies of the former State Government. This means the Boggabri modification is almost guaranteed to be given the go ahead by the department with no independent process, despite its impact on water resources and climate change.

“Rural and regional communities cannot afford the Minns Government to follow business as usual for water-guzzling, climate-wrecking coal mine expansions. To reset means urgently overhauling the policies that let projects like this sail through unscrutinised."



  • Advice from the water division of the Department of Planning warned (twice) that Idemitsu may not be able to obtain legal entitlement to use water captured on site from the Bluevale Water Source catchment - the very offence for which it has recently been sanctioned. 

  • The Minns Labor Government has not made any changes to policy settings that facilitated 26 new fossil fuel projects approved in NSW by the former Coalition Government since the Paris Agreement, despite promising that planning processes would be fully independent.

  • Boggabri MOD 8 is the first new coal expansion likely to be determined by the new Labor government in NSW. It’s the first of at least 10 new coal expansions making their way through the NSW planning system. If all are approved these expansions would constitute a major acceleration in the approval of new coal mining capacity in NSW.

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