The NSW government admits the market has turned its back on building new coal mines and focused on expanding existing operations by excluding more exploration areas.
- Ganguddy-Kelgoola, Wollombi, and Wollar locations removed from strategic resource map
- Affected communities have fought for years against exploration areas
- Deputy Prime Minister says market has clearly shifted away from building new coal mines
The potential for virgin mines in the Midwest and Hunter regions has faced years of community opposition after the state government identified tens of thousands of hectares of land as suitable for exploration potential of coal.
In 2017, it considered the ‘Wollombi’ areas in the Hunter region and ‘Ganguddy-Kelgoola’ and ‘Wollar’ areas in the mid-west as part of the Coal Futures Declaration, a strategic plan to enable it to have “control over the release of prospecting areas”.
Mr Toole said today that the budget estimates had been deemed inappropriate due to the environmental and economic implications of new infrastructure.
It comes less than a week after more than 60 people representing 13 local environmental groups protested against continued coal exploration in the region outside his Bathurst election office.
“These three areas will now be removed from the map linked to the Coal Exploration and Mining Strategic Statement,” he said.
The recommendations came from the Inter-Agency Strategic Release Advisory Body, which developed the framework to “ensure transparency and control over the release of exploration areas”.
The Deputy Prime Minister said there had been a clear market shift in interest in building new coal mines.
Focus is on existing mines
West of Mudgee, plans to explore the Ganguddy-Kelgoola area for coal, which covered nearly 28,000 hectares bordering Wollemi National Park, reportedly affected 61 landowners.
“Ganguddy-Kelgoola is unsuitable due to uncertain economic prospects, significant infrastructure, environmental and cultural constraints,” Mr Toole said.
The Wollombi exploration area covered approximately 178 square kilometers in the Hunter.
“Wollombi is considered unsuitable due to significant land use conflicts, environmental and cultural constraints and uncertain economic prospects,” Toole said.
While the Wollar area was removed from strategic release consideration due to limited market interest, Mr Toole also announced that he had approved a new exploration license for the Wilpinjong mine.
This means the owners, Peabody Energy, can explore 1,670 hectares of land where they wish to expand their current operations, the majority of which is already owned by the company.
This means the village of Wollar, where the last store closed late last year, will be effectively surrounded.
The ABC has contacted Peabody Energy for comment.
“Rather than looking at greenfield sites, we will look at existing mine sites and see if they can expand or expand that site,” Toole said.
“I think this strategic approach strikes a balance between supporting responsible coal production in areas suitable for mining and recognizing that some areas of the state may no longer be suitable for virgin sites.”
The government’s statement on the future of coal stresses that during the global transition away from fossil fuels, it will “continue to support the responsible development of our abundant, high-quality coal resources for the benefit of the state”.