The Vickery coal mine extension worth $600 million has today been approved with 184 conditions to reduce environmental and social impacts.
This comes just one day after prosecution proceedings commenced against the mine operator, Whitehaven Coal for allegedly breaching mining laws at another mine site.
The public hearing for the Vickery mine extension heard from 74 speakers over the two day hearing on the 2nd and 3rd of July.
In total, the commissioners considered 1,928 submissions with the majority of submissions opposing the extension.
1,108 submissions opposed the extension, 774 were in support and 46 were neutral with an additional 935 emails objecting to the application.
The Commission scrutinised several key issues, including water resources, rehabilitation, final void and landform, greenhouse gas emissions, socio-economic impacts, noise, air quality, impacts on agricultural land, road and rail transport, heritage, blasting and vibration, biodiversity, and visual amenity and lighting.
The final decision acknowledged the extension would result in additional environmental impacts and an increased disturbance footprint.
“The Commission finds that the Project would generate significant social and economic benefits for the local area, North West region and to NSW," said the Statement of Reasons for Decision.
The original mine was approved in September 2014 however construction of the key infrastructure required to begin coal extraction is yet to commence.
The newly approved extension will increase the extraction by more than 24% from 135 million tonnes to 168 million.
The extension also allows the peak annual extraction rate to increase from 4.5 to 10 million tonnes and increase the disturbance zone by 776 hectares.
Despite submissions raising concern about the regulatory compliance history of the mine operator Whitehaven Coal, the Statement of Reasons stated they could not consider this aspect as the law does allow it.
"The Commission notes that there is no fit and proper person test in respect of development consents and that matters such as the identity of an applicant or past planning law breaches have been found to be irrelevant considerations for consent authorities such as the Commission."