PERTH (miningweekly.com) – Coal miner Whitehaven Coal is facing a legal challenge to the State Significant Development Consent for the Narrabri Stage 3 extension project, in New South Wales, which was granted by the state’s Independent Planning Commission (IPC) in April this year.
The proposed extension would extend the life of the Narrabri underground mine from 2031 to 2044, with coal mining to move to the south of the existing mine. The project is expected to deliver A$59-million in additional net economic benefits to New South Wales, employing 500 workers and paying A$317-million in direct wages to 2044.
The extension project would extract an additional 82-million tonnes of coal from the region.
The IPC in April conditionally approved the extension project, subject to Whitehaven complying with "strict performance measures" including the curbing of the mine’s Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions.
The Commission also put in place measures to ensure local groundwater users affected by the mine’s expansion receive adequate compensation.
Whitehaven said on Tuesday that the legal proceedings were seeking to invalidate the consent on climate change-related grounds.
The Bushfire Survivors for Climate Action (BSCA) group said on Tuesday that the IPC’s approval of the mine extension was "unreasonable, irrational and illogical and not in the public interest because of the project’s impacts in driving further climate change-fuelled extreme weather events such as the Black Summer bushfires and Sydney’s current flooding events".
“The IPC’s April decision allows Whitehaven Coal to extend operations up to 10 km south of its existing mine with a 500-m-wide coal seam and extract an additional 82-million tonnes of coal to 2044.
“The project will generate at least 479.57-million tonnes CO2-e in emissions (roughly equal to Australia’s current annual greenhouse gas emissions in 2021, which were 488-million tonnes CO2-e) at a time when greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions must be rapidly reduced to limit the devastating impacts of global warming,” the BSCA said in a statement.
After successfully suing the New South Wales Environmental Protection Agency last year to force it to regulate GHG emissions, BSCA is taking action in the New South Wales Land and Environment Court to have the IPC’s approval overturned.
“Today, thousands of people across New South Wales are battling record floodwaters for the third time in only a few months. Homes, businesses, farms, infrastructure are being destroyed and lives are being lost and imperilled,” said BCSA spokesperson Fiona Lee.
“As bushfire survivors we stand shoulder to shoulder with all climate survivors, determined to fight for safer communities. We know what it is to lose everything in a climate-fuelled event. We have felt the weight of lives turned upside down as we rebuild only to see the next disaster roll towards us.”
Whitehaven on Tuesday pointed out that in its approval, the IPC had conducted a comprehensive assessment and evaluation process, which included considering 1 775 submissions from stakeholders, and that the IPC panel had comprised three experienced commissioners.
The IPC had also considered all emissions associated with the project in its assessment, and had found that the GHG emissions for the project had been "adequately estimated and were permissible in context of the current climate change policy framework".
The company also argued that high-quality thermal coal had an important role to play in providing energy security during the decarbonisation transition.
Whitehaven told shareholders that it would vigorously defend the proceedings.