Monday, November 28, 2022

Old coal mine reopens in NSW to ‘keep bread on the table’

The new owners of a dormant coal mine have received approval restart operations as the historic coal mining region around Lithgow moves away from fossil fuels.

Digging could begin in weeks at the Cullen Valley Mine which has been in care and maintenance since 2013.

The operation could continue for another decade if the owners’ plans to restart the neighboring Invincible Colliery are approved.

A group of locals recently acquired Shoalhaven Coal and its two mines, straddling the town of Cullen Bullen, about 25km north of Lithgow.

They have received the green light to mine about 450,000 tonnes from residual resources at Cullen Valley over the next nine months and then start rehabilitation activities.

There is also an approved underground mine on the site which could be built, where there could be another 20 million tonnes.

Keep on digging

Lithgow City Council mayor Maree Statham said the region was in a position to keep the nation’s homes powered so it had an obligation to do so.

“At the moment there are power stations that require coal,” Ms Statham said.

“The longer that they can go the more chance that we can have diversification.”

There are plans for a nearby out-of-service coal-fired power station, Wallerawang, to be turned into an energy from waste facility and be home to one of the biggest renewable battery storage systems in the nation.

The operators of Cullen Valley Mine plan to send 1 million tonnes of saleable coal to Energy Australia’s Mount Piper Power Station, which is only about 5km away.

They expect a decision will be made by the end of the year on whether or not they can re-open a far bigger project, the Invincible Colliery, which virtually neighbors Cullen Valley.

Its former owner, Coalpac, folded after its bid to re-open the Invincible Mine was rejected on environmental grounds.

Coal needed now

Cullen Valley’s mine manager Kyle Egan said Australia was in need of a reliable energy supply while the transition to renewables ramped up.

Approval could result in up to 1.2 million tonnes of coal being extracted per year until 2025 on the basis of rare pagoda formations were not impacted.

The company plans to recover about 2 million tonnes over three years if their soon to be submitted submission gets the tick of approval.

Cullen Valley Mine Sign
Cullen Valley Mine went into care and maintenance mode in 2013.,Supplied: Kyle Egan,

“Until the base load for New South Wales and Australia can effectively be replaced we’ll continue to have to mine coal,” Mr Egan said.

Ms Statham said the application would be successful providing all regulations were met.

Both mines are primarily located within the Ben Bullen State Forest, which has just been gazetted as part of the Gardens of Stone State Conservation Area.

“It does sound contradictory,” she said.

“They’ve had to navigate a lot of issues, they’ve had to get over a lot of hurdles … [but] it’s a very small coal mine”.

Green light from locals

Cullen Bullen Progress Association member Elaine Deveigne, who has lived outside Cullen Bullen since 1947, said she watched the community crumble when the mines shut.

“The mines were always very good to Cullen Bullen,” Ms Deveigne said.

She said the restart of mining could revitalise the area if it created jobs.

“It’s going to give us something in town, we’ve got nothing,” she said.

The ABC has contacted the NSW Department of Planning and Environment for comment.


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