Centennial Coal says it had “prepared for the decision" made in the NSW Court of Appeal on Wednesday that the approval for the Springvale Mine extension was unlawful.
“While the Court’s decision is obviously disappointing, we have prepared for this outcome. A range of options have been identified and we will now proceed to implement these options to seek to ensure Springvale can continue operating without disruption," Centennial Coal spokesperson Katie Brassil said.
“Our immediate focus will be ensuring Springvale can continue to operate, thereby securing the livelihood of our local community while also continuing to meet the State’s electricity needs.”
The mine currently has an onsite workforce of 437 employees and contractors. Ms Brassil said the bulk of those workers live in Lithgow.
“We are digesting the judgement at the moment and that will determine the pathways that are available to follow,” she said.
“Our priority is uninterrupted production and our people.”
An environmental group ‘4nature’ challenged the 2015 approval to extend the mine on the grounds that the approval did not comply with legislation that dictates projects must have a ‘nuetral of beneficial’ impact on Sydney’s water catchment.
Last September, the case was knocked back by the Land and Environment Court.
However, on August 2 the NSW Court of Appeal ruled the approval was invalid.
“This appeal is not about the merits of burning coal to produce electricity. Nor is it about the merits of mining coal from the existing mine at Springvale and burning it at the adjacent power station. Those issues are questions of policy as to which it is no part of this Court’s function to rule,” Justice Leeming said.
“This Court has instead been asked to determine a legal question. The question is whether the decision to approve development extending the mining operation at Springvale was within power.”
The court found the Planning and Assessment Commission had incorrectly applied the test determining the impact of the mine’s highly saline water waste on the catchment.
In July, Centennial gained approval to build a water treatment facility and pipeline at Springvale Mine that would remove the need to release mine water into the Coxs River.
“This action pre-dates the water treatment project. It’s more of a legal precedent determining how the NorBE (neutral of beneficial) test is applied. We are just unintended consequence.
The water treatment facility is not expected to be complete until 2019.