This week in Australia, the New South Wales government released its comprehensive technical assessment for Whitehaven Coal’s Vickery Extension Project and its key recommendation that the project can proceed. The report, according to Whitehaven, will now be considered by the New South Wales Independent Planning Commission (IPC), which will hold a public hearing regarding the project in the coming weeks. Consistent with the statement of expectations released by Planning Minister Rob Stokes last week, the IPC must make a final determination on the project within 12 weeks.

A first round of public hearings into the project was held in early 2019. The Department of Planning and the IPC also sought and received written submissions as part of the initial EIS and first-stage public hearing processes, respectively.

“We know there is strong support for Vickery from the comprehensive community consultation process that has already been undertaken — 60% of public submissions to the Department of Planning and 75% to the IPC called for the project to be approved,” Coal Managing Director and CEO Paul Flynn said. “Vickery has the potential to be one of the most significant sources of employment and investment in northwest NSW in the coming years and major infrastructure projects have a key role to play in the post-COVID-19 economic recovery, including for regional Australia.”

The Vickery Extension Project proposes the construction of a new open-cut coal mine and associated on-site infrastructure about 25 kilometers (km) north of Gunnedah in northwest New South Wales. The mine will produce predominantly metallurgical coal. The proposal builds upon and optimizes an already-approved mine, on a site that has already been extensively and safely mined over many years.

Vickery is estimated to generate around 500 construction jobs and 450 operational jobs, growing Whitehaven’s existing 2,400-strong workforce, around 75% of whom live locally.

The project will contribute a net economic benefit to NSW of A$1.2 billion, including $656 million in royalty payments to the NSW Government.