MINING giant Rio Tinto has warned that a new planning application for its Warkworth coalmine in NSW is a “litmus test” for the ability of governments to deliver regulatory results to match their economic aspirations.
The miner has been fighting to expand its coalmine in the Hunter Valley region after the Land and Environment Court put the brakes on plans earlier this year, after Rio had already received government approvals to proceed.
Rio has appealed the court decision but its chances of winning are slim, leading the miner to look to a short-term measure to keep the operation open and 1300 people in a job. The company this week lodged an application to access 350m of land to keep its production at an economic level.
Rio Tinto Coal Australia managing director Chris Salisbury said that seeking access to the extra land was the only real option Rio had to avoid further significant impacts on production and jobs. “Importantly, it will also provide us with two years to look at options for further planning approvals to provide a longer-term future for the mine,” he said.
The coal boss argued that mines of the scale of Mount Thorley Warkworth required long-term stability to remain financially viable but the miner was being forced to pursue a short-term fix for the next two years.
“There can be no clearer demonstration of just how significant the failings of the NSW planning system have been in recent times,” he said.
The state government has recently changed the regulation for mine approvals and weight will now given to the economic benefits, including job creation, of the operation.
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