Centennial Coal and EnergyAustralia have both made calls for “political courage” and “real leadership” to secure the future of Springvale Mine, following EnergyAustralia chairman Graham Bradley’s comments to The Australian that Mt Piper Power Station was at “real risk” of closure due to legal challenges facing the mine.
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“The reality is that without coal, Mt Piper will stop operating,” an EnergyAustralia spokesperson said.
“It may be possible in the future to bring coal from other areas by rail. But today there is only one mine, Springvale, and it’s under threat of closing.”
Andrew Cox, the president of the environment group 4Nature that successfully challenged Springvale Mine’s extension approval in the Court of Appeal, said Bradley’s comments were “fear-mongering”.
4Nature V Centennial Coal Timeline
“We are not trying to stop the mine from operating. We are aware of the job implications of the court ruling,” he said.
“We want to make sure the short-term environmental impacts of the mine are addressed and we are willing to talk the parties about that how that might come about.”
“If the court orders mining to cease, Centennial Coal can apply to the government for a new approval and it can purchase third party coal to meet its obligations to Mt Piper."
In August the NSW Court of Appeal found the test the Planning Approval Commission used to determine the mine’s impact on Sydney’ water catchment was applied incorrectly.
Orders from the court on the mine’s approval to operate have not yet been made. Centennial Coal and the NSW Environment Defenders Office (who prosecuted the case on behalf of 4Nature) are expected to attend a directions hearing at the Land and Environment Court on Friday, September 15, which will outline the timeline for arguments and evidence to be submitted to the court before final orders are handed down at a future hearing.
Katie Brassil, Centennial Coal’s manager of external affairs said the court case could potentially jeopardize the construction of a water treatment facility that would remove the need for mine water to enter the catchment.
“The frustrating thing is that the 2015 consent required us to improve water quality in the catchment and we came up with the panacea that goes above and beyond the requirements of the consent condition.”
“We need valid consent for Springvale’s operation to underwrite the water treatment facility,” she said.
Andrew Cox questioned why Centennial had not constructed the facility earlier.
“Delay and denial has brought them to this point, with an adverse court finding and a coal contract they may not be able to fill,” he said.
“This is a problem of the mine company’s own making but compliance with environmental law is not optional and if there are costs, they must be borne by Centennial Coal.”
The companies’ calls for political action on Mt Piper coincide with the federal government’s push to keep Liddell power station open beyond 2022, and speculation around the nation’s clean energy target.
Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg said the government is committed to ensuring coal power is part of a “mix” of energy sources but made no commitment to acting to keep Mt Piper Power Station open when contacted by the Lithgow Mercury on September 11.