Rio Tinto will learn the future of its Mt Thorley Warkworth mine on Monday, with a Supreme Court decision expected to be handed down after the miner appealed a ruling that halted its expansion plans.
Planning consent for the expansion was given by the New South Wales government, but was then overturned in April 2013 by the Land and Environment Court because the mine would create unacceptable noise and dust problems for nearby residents in Bulga.
Both Rio Tinto and the NSW government filed a joint appeal in the Supreme Court just weeks later.
The appeal was heard over for days in August and a decision is expected to be handed down on Monday, ABC reported.
Rio Tinto Coal Australia managing director Chris Salisbury said the mine is under considerable financial pressure and had no option but to go back with a longer term consent approval.
The company says the new applications will provide it with an integrated operation which can sustain mining within the existing footprint for the next 30 years.
It says the plan means the 1300 employees and contractors who work at the site will have job security.
However, those against the mine expansion say the new application is almost identical to the last, saying merit based mining laws will make it easier to pass this time around.
Since the first expansion plan was rejected in court, laws relating to mine planning approvals and State Environmental Planning Policy have changed to give greater consideration to economic outcomes when challenged by community concerns around the impact of new mining operations.
Bulga Milbrodale Progress Association spokesman John Krey said Rio had resubmitted the same application rejected by the Land and Environment Court, Singleton Argus reported.
“These new plans totally ignore everything the judge said, it’s exactly the same footprint, same demolition of the Warkworth Woodlands and there is absolutely no protection provided for our community,” Krey said.
“We won a merits based appeal in the Land and Environment Court and now the company is coming back with the same plans having not heeded a word that was said in the court’s judgement."
"I think that the State Government and their keenness to please the mine is going to be the end of Bulga.
"We'll be looking straight at a mine and it works 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
"This is no longer the countryside that we came to, this is now becoming an industrial area."
Rio Tinto has attempted to sweeten the deal with a biodiversity offset package which includes a donation of 1800 hectares of land to be made a national park.
The company has also said it will upgrade its diesel powered heavy equipment with noise attenuation kits by the end of 2016 and offer voluntary acquisition to those residents who were granted acquisition rights under the 2012 Warkworth planning approval.
Salisbury acknowledges Bulga residents will be concerned by the project, but says the company will do what it can to respond to the issues.
"You know we are going to continue to consult with residents of Bulga and we know that some residents obviously have got some concerns,” he said.
"We've attempted to respond to some of those concerns and we'll continue to consult with them through the application process."