Glendell Continued Operations SSD-9349 and SSD-5850-Mod-4, Statement of Reasons for Decision (28 October 2022)

Mining Coal mining

Glendell Continued Operations SSD-9349 and SSD-5850-Mod-4, Statement of Reasons for Decision (28 October 2022)
New South Wales Independent Planning Commission

A subsidiary of Glencore Coal Pty. Limited (the company) applied to extend the life of coal mining operations at the Glendell Mine in New South Wales.  The decision was referred to the Independent Planning Commission (IPC) by the Department of Planning and Environment because more than 50 objections were received during public exhibition of the proposed project. Statement of Reasons, para. 4.

The company proposed to enlarge the mine footprint and extract an additional 135 metric tons of coal over a 21-year period using open-cut mining methods.  Id., para. 17.  The Glendell mine is situated on the traditional lands of the Wonnarua people, who consider the land to have high cultural significance. The area of proposed expansion included the Ravensworth Homestead complex, which was established by early European settlers in the 1820s. The IPC noted that “some stakeholders, including the Heritage Council and the [Plains Clan of the Wonnarua People] Aboriginal group, suggest that the Homestead site is highly significant for itsassociation with frontier conflict between European and Aboriginal people, including a reported massacre.” Id., para. 90. The Commission acknowledged, however, that others disagreed as to this history, and Aboriginal heritage associated with the homestead site was “contested and complex.” Id., para. 175.  The mining company examined alternatives to preserve the homestead site in place and concluded that none would be economically viable.  Id., paras. 118, 126. For that reason, the company proposed to relocate the homestead complex to allow the mine to be fully expanded.

After holding hearings, collecting evidence and conducting a site visit, the IPC issued its decision and statement of reasons. The IPC found that the Ravensworth Homestead complex has high to exceptional heritage value and that relocation of the Homestead would have “significant and irreversible impacts on heritage.” Id., para. 167, 169.  The Commission also found that protection of the Homestead complex would promote inter-generational equity.  Id., para. 170.  The IPC was not swayed by the likely economic and other benefits of the project, declaring that “impacts to historic heritage to be the primary reason for refusal of the Application.” Id., para. 172. The Commission did not make specific findings as to Aboriginal heritage associated with the homestead site, noting that its findings on historical heritage were sufficient grounds to refuse the application.  Id., para. 175. It did conclude, however, that the coal mine expansion would harm aboriginal cultural values. Id., para. 262(b). Ultimately, according to the IPC, the proposed coal mine expansion “would not achieve an appropriate balance between relevant environmental, economic and social considerations” and would not be consistent with principles of ecologically sustainable development (ESD). Id., para. 262(c). The likely benefits of the proposed mine expansion did not outweigh the likely impacts and thus the project was not in the public interest.  Id.