The New South Wales Department of Planning and Environment is referring the Hume Coal Project and associated Berrima Rail Project to the Independent Planning Commission (IPC), after having undertaken a comprehensive assessment and expressing concerns over ground and surface water, among other issues.

The Hume Coal Project, near Berrima in the Southern Highlands, proposes to extract up to 3.5MT of coal each year for 19 years, and the associated Berrima Rail Project involves the development of a new rail spur and connecting loop.

The Department has undertaken a rigorous examination of the proposals, which included seeking independent expert advice on a range of issues, including groundwater, mine design, economics and noise.

The Department said it does not consider that the economic benefits of the projects outweigh the likely adverse impacts on the environment and community. The Department has therefore found that the projects are not in the public interest and should not be approved.

The Department received a total of 12,666 submissions on the project, including over 5000 submissions from the local area, of which 97 per cent were objections.

Wingecarribee Shire Council objected to the project, while key government agencies including the Department of Industry – Lands and Water, the Environment Protection Authority and WaterNSW all raised concerns about impacts on groundwater and surface water.

The Resources Regulator also said that the proposed mining method was untested and that the mine could be unsafe for workers.

The Department said there is currently considerable scientific uncertainty about the level of environmental damage to both groundwater and surface water resources.

The predicted drawdown impacts on the groundwater aquifer would be the most significant for any mining project that has ever been assessed in NSW.

The IPC is likely to hold the public hearing early in 2019. It will seek the community’s input to inform its review of the projects. The IPC will provide its review report on the hearing within eight weeks of the hearing.

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