At the beginning of this month, federal environment minister Greg Hunt approved the Watermark Coal Mine in New South Wales.
Proposed by Chinese mining company Shenhua, the mine is valued at A$1.3-1.6 billion and is expected to produce up to 10 million tonnes of coal each year over its 30-year lifetime.
The mine is located approximately 25 km south-east of the township of Gunnedah and 3km to the west of the village of Breeza.
According to Minister Hunt, the approval was granted with some of the strictest environmental conditions in Australia’s history. The approval was welcomed by some and highly criticised by others.
The construction phase of the project is expected to generate up to 600 full-time equivalent employees, while another 434 full-time equivalent employees will be needed during the operation of the Project.
While many have raised concerns about the mine, Australian Industry Group NSW Director Mark Goodsell has expressed his support in a media release.
“The Watermark coal mine has the potential to make a significant and much needed contribution to the State’s economy and industry is confident that the tough conditions that have been set will protect vital interests in land and water. There is no doubt that the community and farmers have a legitimate interest in protecting our water resources and our farmlands. At the same time, NSW stands to benefit considerably from resources-based projects and the wider industrial activity and employment that mining can bring,” he said.
“The Federal Government’s decision to approve the Watermark mine is the proper outcome of a long and tough assessment process to meet exactly these concerns. This assessment has had the benefit of strong independent advice and assessment. Shenhua Waterwark will bear both the ordinary commercial risks of a major project in a turbulent industry, and the responsibility to minimise environmental impacts in line with the State and Federal approvals.”
Goodsell also said that the Government deserved credit for taking a considered decision on a difficult issue.
There are further steps for the project to navigate. Shenhua still needs a mining license from New South Wales, and three further approvals on water management and rehabilitation from the federal government.