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The NSW Independent Planning Commission has approved the Mount Pleasant coal optimisation project with strict conditions.

The NSW Independent Planning Commission has approved the Mount Pleasant coal optimisation project located in the Upper Hunter of New South Wales, with strict conditions.

Owner MACH Energy had sought approval to extend the life of the operations until December 2048 and deepen part of the open cut mining area, allowing for the extraction of about 444 million tonnes of run-of-mine (ROM) coal over the life of the mine.

The project would also increase the existing approved extraction rates from 10.5 to 21mt per annum of ROM coal.

The Department of Planning and Environment completed its whole-of-government assessment of the application in May this year and recommended to the Commission that the project be approved.

A three-member panel met with the Department, the applicant, Muswellbrook Shire Council and Upper Hunter Shire Council, conducted an inspection of the site and hosted a two-day public hearing in July to hear community views.

The Commission found the application should be approved, subject to strict conditions of consent, for reasons including:

  • air quality and noise impacts of the project are capable of being minimised, managed or atleast compensated
  • the greenhouse gas emissions have been adequately estimated and are permissible in the context of the current climate change policy framework
  • opportunities exist for the applicant throughout the life of the project to deploy existing, emerging and future technologies to improve the abatement of greenhouse gas emissions
  • impacts on historic heritage are capable of being managed
  • any harm to Aboriginal cultural heritage can be acceptably managed through conditions of consent
  • biodiversity impacts can be suitably avoided, mitigated and/or offset
  • the project can be managed such that it would not result in a significant impact to surfacewater and groundwater resources
  • visual impacts associated with the project would be generally similar to those under the existing approval and would reduce over time as a result of progressive rehabilitation
  • the project would have a net positive economic impact in relation to employment

The Federal environment and water minister Tanya Plibersek will still have to make the final decision on whether the project should proceed, with anti-coal organisations calling on her to reject it.