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Planning Department overhaul needed after Dendrobium failure

Lock the Gate Alliance is calling for an urgent overhaul of the NSW Planning Department after its clear failure to adequately assess South32’s Dendrobium coal mine extension.

Despite serious concerns from WaterNSW and other independent experts about the impact the mine would have on Sydney and the Illawarra’s water supply, the Planning Department listed the destructive mine extension as “approvable”.

The Independent Planning Commission subsequently rejected the extension, citing a long list of concerns including:

  • Uncertainty over the scale of impacts to the catchment, 

  • The threat to 47 upland swamps above the longwalls, 

  • A lack of certainty over claims Bluescope was dependent on the project given mine plan timing information supplied by South32, 

  • Considerable risk of irreversible damage to 58 identified Aboriginal heritage sites, 

  • The significant greenhouse emissions that would be produced.

“This clear error by the Planning Department has since given Deputy Premier John Barilaro ammunition to throw a tantrum in response to the Independent Planning Commission rightfully rejecting the destructive and draining extension,” said Lock the Gate Alliance NSW spokesperson Nic Clyde.

“South32’s proposal was so flawed, anyone could see the impacts it would have on the catchment area were unacceptable. This is a major embarrassment for the Planning Department.

“The NSW Government had already weakened the IPC after the commission dared to reject the Bylong coal mine proposal more than a year ago, so for it to reject the Dendrobium extension speaks volumes about how bad South32’s proposal really was.

“South32 arrogantly refused to even consider the less destructive bord and pillar method of mining, and as a result shot itself in the foot.

“The fault here lies with the company and the Planning Department, which has recommended 11 new coal projects in a row for approval since the IPC was created in March 2018.

“We are now calling for an independent review into how the Planning Department comes to its decisions, particularly with respect to how it got the Dendrobium decision so very wrong.”


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