Throughout the Planning Assessment Commission meeting on the re-opening and extension of Invincible Mine, held at the Lithgow Workies on Wednesday, Manildra stated the company had struck a “critical balance” in satisfying conservation concerns Cullen Bullen’s needs and their own energy requirements.
John Honan, the managing director of Manildra, the parent company that owns Cullen Valley and Invincibe Mine, reiterated the company’s need for a cheaper supply of nut coal to sustain their starches plant in Shoalhaven, which uses coal and gas in drying and evaporating processes. Manildra currently purchases nut coal from Clarence Colliery and Whitehaven mine in Narrabri.
“We are facing an energy crisis that we have never seen before,” John Honan said.
“We cannot pass these costs onto our bakery customers in the US or the paper customers in Indonesia. We compete in the world market and somehow we are going to have to deal with those costs.”
Representatives of environmental groups questioned the need to re-open and extend an open-cut mine when nut coal was available from other sources.
“A marginal saving for Manildra’s input costs is not worth an unreasonably rapid depletion of very high conservation value grassy woodlands of ‘special significance’,” Keith Muir of the Colong Foundation said.
Madi Maclean, the president of the Blue Mountains Conservation Society raised the Environment Protection Authority’s submission to the project which stated the water modelling was insufficient.
“The PAC itself needs independent advice on this. Where will the water go? Where will it come out, how toxic it will be?” she said.
“We say now that any PAC considering an open cut operation should observe what the previous PACs said. And that is that the area should be used for conservation purposes.”
Peter Gray a representative of EnergyAustralia raised the benefit of having a second source of coal for Mt Piper Power Station. Invincible’s project manager Brett Moore said Manildra had not signed any agreements with EnergyAustralia. However, he admitted that nut coal would be “quite a small percentage” of the coal mined at Invincible.
“Whilst it is a small percentage of the over all product, the use of coal at Shoalhaven is quite small in coal mining terms so this project is scaled perfectly to suit our needs. We have consulted with the local power station in terms of the off take, that’s the logical outcome in terms of that coal,” he said.
Mayor Stephen Lesslie said a secondary source of coal to Mt Piper was one of the positive outcomes of the project, as well as the promise of 35 full-time jobs.
“The proposal will result in a number of tangible economic benefits. Cullen Bullen is a pretty little village but currently under a lot of economic stress,” he said.
Keith Howell, who runs a business in the area, said that due to rising unemployment he had gone from employing 30 people to three.
“Less disposable income means immediate impact on local businesses, which are supported by the local community,” Mr Howell said.
“If the mine re-opens it will assist Lithgow and help us get back the businesses we have lost since the mine’s have closed,” Ray Blakely, the president of Cullen Bullen Tidy Towns, said.
“We don’t have these facilities now, it used to be a thriving town back in the early days. It would be great to see it get up and going.”