Approvals for two mines in the Blue Mountains have been granted on the basis that the applications described modifications that were “significantly smaller” than before.
The Department of Planning and Environment approved Coalpac’s Invincible Colliery and Cullen Valley mine modifications under the condition that the company maintain a 300-metre buffer zone between open-cut mining operations the large “pagodas” or rock formations, and a 100-metre buffer for smaller rock formations.
Applications made in September were rejected as they proposed mining to within 50-metres of the formations.
Shortly after the first application refusal Coalpac went into administration.
Environment groups fears the mining will destabilise the pagoda formations, as well as destroy large areas of the Ben Bullen Forest.
Nature Conservation Council of NSW CEO Kate Smolski raised issue with arguments that the company had said it would not be able to pay for rehab if the mine expansion was not approved.
“(This) raises serious questions about the adequacy of the environmental bonds that large coal mining companies are required to post to cover the costs of rehabilitation if they go bust,” she said.
Final approvals must now go before the Planning and Assessment Commission.
Concerns have also been raised about the presence of Aboriginal artefacts and rock paintings in caves in the Ben Bullen Forest, and the likelihood that they will be destroyed by mine subsidence, from highwall mining under the cliffs and caves of the ‘Gardens of Stone’ site.