Bylong Coal Mine May Proceed

IPCC report be damned. The NSW Government is pushing ahead with approving a major coal mine at Bylong.

The project involves the construction and operation of an open cut and underground coal mine in the Bylong Valley, approximately 55 km north-east of Mudgee in New South Wales. It would see the digging up of 124 million tonnes of Run of Mine (ROM) coal to produce approximately 90 million tonnes of thermal coal over its 23-year operational period.

The project has met with significant resistance. ABC reports when the development application and environmental impact statement were placed on public exhibition in 2015, out of 364 submissions received 336 opposed it.

The same day the UN released an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report that warned of the dangers the world faces unless carbon emissions are cut to zero by 2050, the NSW Department of Planning and Environment (DoPE1) published a recommendation stating the project can proceed, with conditions, and has referred it to the Independent Planning Commission.

While the game’s not over yet – a public hearing will be held by the Commission before a final determination is made – there’s a very real fear the mine will be given the green light.

“The recommendation to proceed with the Bylong mine shows the NSW Government is completely missing in action on climate change just as the IPCC warns warming beyond 1.5 degrees risks catastrophic heat and disruption” said Lock the Gate spokesperson Carmel Flint.

New NSW Coal Would “Smash” Carbon Budget

In related news, the NSW Greens have stated new coal mines or approved expansion of existing projects could boost NSW production by almost 2 billion tonnes.

“The amount of extra coal proposed to be mined in NSW would absolute smash the remaining carbon budget, leading to runaway global warming,” said Greens NSW energy spokesman Jeremy Buckingham.

IPCC Report Falls On Selectively Deaf Federal Ears

At a Federal Government level, the reaction to the IPCC report has been watched closely – both locally and abroad.

Immediately after the report was released, Minister for the Environment  Melissa Price stated:

“We’re particularly concerned about the implications for coral reefs, with the report finding climate change will impact reefs across the world, including Australia …I want to reassure Australians that, in the International Year of the Reef, the Morrison Government prioritises action over words.”

But as the dust began to settle, the tone somewhat changed. Subsequent related commentary from Minister Price and Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been described by RenewEconomy’s Giles Parkinson as “breathtakingly stupid“.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called the IPCC report an “ear-splitting wake-up call to the world”.

“We need to end deforestation and plant billions of trees, drastically reduce the use of fossil fuels and phase out coal by 2050, ramp up installation of wind and solar power, invest in climate-friendly sustainable agriculture; and consider new technologies such as carbon capture and storage,” he stated.

Footnotes

  1. Quite fitting in this instance?
About Michael Bloch

Michael caught the solar power bug after purchasing components to cobble together a small off-grid PV system in 2008. He's been reporting on Australian and international solar energy news ever since.

Comments

  1. Geoff Miell says:

    The DoPE seems to have ignored compelling evidence against approval.

    Reported in the Australian Financial Review on 26 May 2017, the global head of BlackRock’s infrastructure investment group, Jim Barry, said:

    “Coal is dead. That’s not to say all coal plants are going to shut tomorrow. But anyone who’s looking to take beyond a 10-year view on coal is gambling very significantly.”

    US-headquartered BlackRock has reportedly more than US$5 trillion of assets under management.
    See: https://www.afr.com/business/mining/coal/blackrock-says-coal-is-dead-as-it-eyes-renewable-power-splurge-20170524-gwbuu6

    Then there’s Professor Andrew Blakers’ expert sworn testimony at the NSW Parliament Select Committee on Electricity Supply, Demand and Prices in NSW public hearing on 21 February 2018. Blakers said:

    “The key point that I would like to get across is that the game is up— wind and solar photovoltaics [PV] have won the race. It is a lay-down misere. The number one new generation technology being installed around the world is solar PV, number two is wind, and coal is a distant third. This year, roughly 200 gigawatts of PV and wind new generation capacity will go in around the world, while only 50 gigawatts of coal will go in. That is a difference factor of four between PV and wind and coal.”

    https://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/lcdocs/transcripts/2031/Transcript%20%E2%80%93%2021%20February%202018%20%E2%80%93%20CORRECTED.PDF

    New renewables are decisively out-competing new coal generation on economic terms.

    And then there’s the IPCC Special Report released on October 8, calling for all coal-fired power stations to be phased out by 2050.

    CoalSwarm and Greenpeace’s “A Coal Phase-Out Pathway for 1.5°C”, published earlier this month, examines how a two-thirds reduction in coal power generation can be achieved by 2030 to limit warming below 1.5°C (above pre-industrial levels).

    The compelling evidence suggests to me that the Bylong Coal Project will be at high risk of becoming a “stranded asset”. The DoPE seems to be living in an alternative reality.

  2. Geoff Miell says:

    Yesterday, the Independent Planning Commission New South Wales (IPCN) published a transcript of the public meeting held at the Parklands Resort and Conference Centre, Putta Bucca (near Mudgee) NSW on Wednesday, November 7, concerning the final determination of the proposed Bylong Coal Project.
    See: https://live.ipcn.nsw.gov.au/projects/2018/10/bylong-coal-project

    The public meeting began just after 9am and finished at about 5:30pm.

    The Land article headlined “Hundreds pack gallery at Kepco’s Bylong Valley coal mine planning hearing” reported on some of the activities during the day.
    See: https://www.theland.com.au/story/5744868/mine-hearings-huge-gallery/
    And see also: https://www.theland.com.au/story/5748750/transitioning-a-process-commissioners-told/

  3. Geoff Miell says:

    The Newcastle Herald online article headlined “Ulan says single-track rail line does not have room to carry Bylong coal” by Ian Kirkwood, dated Nov 24, reports that there are further concerns about the proposed Bylong Coal Project concerning the capacity of the rail system to carry its coal.
    See: https://www.theherald.com.au/story/5774813/ulan-operator-glencore-objects-to-nearby-bylong-proposal/

    Glencore, owner of Ulan coal mine, claims in a submission to the Independent Planning Commission NSW (IPCN) that unless and until Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) expands the Gulgong to Sandy Hollow rail line, “there is no possibility for Bylong to rail its coal”.
    See: https://live.ipcn.nsw.gov.au/resources/pac/media/files/pac/projects/2018/10/bylong-coal-project/presentations-and-comments/glencore.pdf

    Did the NSW DoPE miss this critical factor? Why?

    Or does the DoPE agree with IEEFA’s assessment that NSW coal exports will decline, and so there’s no need to expand the rail line to carry more coal? If so, why the need for the proposed Bylong Coal Project?
    See: https://www.solarquotes.com.au/blog/nsw-coal-decline-mb0809/

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