Hume Coal, a subsidiary of South Korean steel manufacturer POSCO’s [005490:KS] Australia affiliate, is awaiting the final words of the New South Wales (NSW) Independent Planning Commission (IPC) on the establishment of its controversial Hume Coal Project, as reported by ABC News on July 14. With this proposed project located in Berrima, NSW, Hume Coal planned to extract about 3m tons of coal every year for steel and cement production as well as power generation. As the project was seeking approval, it invoked public opposition due to potential damage to underground aquifers.
This June, the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE) recommended the rejection of Hume Coal’s project application, citing environmental concerns such as contamination, pressure decline, and depletion of groundwater resources. Under the DPIE’s request, the IPC held a two-day public hearing on July 12 and 13. Among more than 80 submissions during the hearing, nearly three-fourths disapproved of the project. A final decision by the IPC will be out soon.
This was not the first time Hume Coal Project was under review by the DPIE and the IPC. The mine’s initial proposal dated back to 2015. After a preliminary assessment, the DPIE released a statement in late 2018 that recommended the rejection of the project. Although Hume Coal claimed that the project could provide up to 400 job opportunities for the local community and millions in salaries and royalties paid to the NSW government, the department’s statement suggested that the mine’s negative environmental and community impacts largely prevailed over the economic benefits. In response to the DPIE’s environmental concerns, the IPC demanded more information about the project in 2019. Hume Coal later addressed the request, yet the two parties remained far from reaching an agreement. For example, Hume Coal Project Manager Rod Doyle disagreed with the DPIE on describing the project area as greenfield and maintained that the department had exaggerated the groundwater impacts.