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Narrabri coal mine life could extend past 2050

Wednesday, January 11th, 2023

Two upcoming exploration licenses could add 15 years to the life of a Whitehaven coal operation in New South Wales.

Two upcoming exploration licenses could add 15 years to the life of a Whitehaven coal operation in New South Wales.

The Narrabri coal mine is Whitehaven’s only underground coal operation and produces 11 million tonnes per annum.

Originally slated to operate until 2031, Whitehaven was in April last year granted an extension to 2044 to extract a further 82 million tonnes of coal.

Whitehaven said the 13-year extension granted would provide NSW with $600 million in economic benefits and keep 500 local jobs alive for decades.

But the two exploration licenses could see that extend further to at least 2059. If developed, the mine extension would also boost production from 5.4 million tonnes per year to 8 million tonnes, according to the documents.

The exploration licence applications were submitted in February 2021 and later approved by NSW Deputy Premier Paul Toole for an area covering 3721 hectares.

Both applications are for land in an area known as Gorman North, which the NSW Government has identified for potential strategic release.

However, the NSW Government says the granting of licences doesn’t mean the mine will necessarily continue producing coal beyond its current approval window.

“The grant of two coal exploration licences in Narrabri authorise exploration activity only – they do not authorise mining – and the granting of an exploration licence is no guarantee that mining will take place,” Toole said.

With local farmers and other activist groups opposing the move, it remains to be seen if the extension will go ahead.

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