Centennial Coal has submitted a proposal to the Department of Planning Industry and Environment (DPIE) for a small underground, bord and pillar mine west of the Angus Place pit top.
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Centennial, owned by Thailand-based Banpu group, changed their plan so instead of extracting about 135 million tonnes of the fossil fuel out to 2053, they will instead dig up 2 million tonnes of coal every year for up to an eight-year period.
It is proposed the APW project would commence operations as mining at Springvale winds down therefore representing continuity of both employment of up to 200 employees and coal supply to Mount Piper Power Station (MPPS).
"The proposed APW project represents a flexible and more immediate coal supply option for MPPS", Centennial's spokesperson, Katie Brassil explained.
"APW will ensure both continuity of coal supply to MPPS and future employment opportunities for our workforce, while also delivering a low impact mining operation, using a bord and pillar first workings mining method.
"The proposed APW project will be prioritised by Centennial while the previously proposed Angus Place Mine Extension Project, or more colloquially named Angus Place East, will be relegated for consideration if required in the future for MPPS."
The APW scoping report submitted to DPIE represents the beginning of the planning assessment process.
Ongoing consultation with key stakeholders and the relevant technical studies will comprise the comprehensive Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) which is anticipated to be lodged with DPIE by the middle of next year.
Centennial's decision will save hundreds of hectares of endangered and nationally significant wetlands that would have been undermined, drained and killed by the longwall mining, according to Nature Conservation Council Chief Executive, Chris Gambian.
"This is a great victory for nature, the climate and community campaigning over many years to protect the Garden of Stone from further damage by coal mining," he said.
"By the company's own admission, the Angus Place extension would have destroyed 350 hectares of nationally endangered wetlands.
"The mine has already caused extensive ecological damage by draining and killing several wetlands of national significance. It is a relief that this threat to these unique ecosystems will now be safe."
The company's decision is indicative of a general decline in coal use locally and globally. Last year coal and gas generation in NSW fell 9 per cent as it is replaced by new solar and wind generators.
"The change in our energy mix is undeniable, and now is the time to ensure a bright future for Lithgow by supporting the region to diversify its economy," Mr Gambian said.
"With the right support, Lithgow has the potential to be a top-class tourism destination.
"Lithgow's growing tourism industry and conservationists has been pushing for years to have the area's forests and stunning pagoda rock formations protected in a new Gardens of Stone reserve.
"We are calling on the NSW Government to invest in the proposed Gardens of Stone Reserve to showcase the area's stunning landscapes and capitalise on tourism opportunities."
The Gardens of Stone Alliance (GOS Alliance) welcomes the withdrawal of Centennial Coal's Angus Place Mine Extension Project north of Lithgow.
Senior Vice President of the Blue Mountains Conservation Society, Madi Mclean said the decision to withdraw the proposal was a huge win for the swamps and internationally significant pagoda landscape of the Gardens of Stone.
"Centennial Coal operations at Springvale and Angus Place have already caused so much damage to the area, pushing its unique swamps and species to the brink of extinction and causing countless cliff-falls and damage to pagodas," she said.
Lithgow Environment Group Julie Favell said now is the perfect time for the NSW Government to make the Gardens of Stone State Conservation Area a reality.
"They can implement the Destination Pagoda tourist management plan, which would see the area transformed into a world-class destination," she said.
"This entire area must be protected by the NSW national parks system and provided the appropriate funding to fulfil its potential as a visitor-friendly reserve."
Sarah Terkes, Director of Operations of the Blue Mountains World Heritage Institute, said the reduction of mining was welcome news.
"Any reduction in mining is welcome news for the health and future of the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area," she said.
"We know that mining occurring right on the edge of the world heritage area impacts endangered upland swamps, water quality and streamflow, with flow-on effects for biodiversity and several threatened species."
Convenor of the GOS Alliance, Wilson Harris had strong views on Centennial Coal's plans.
"Centennial Coal should walk away from the development entirely and abandon future plans to mine this area of stunning natural beauty. Enough is enough," he said.
"The NSW Government should reserve the Gardens of Stone State Conservation Area now, and kick off an exciting new chapter for the Gardens of Stone and Lithgow."
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