Glencore's Ulan Coal Mine
This operation now covering 120 km2 was first established in the early 1980’s as a large open cut mine that diverted 3km of the Goulburn River. At the time it was the largest coal mine in the southern hemisphere. Subsequent approvals in 1998 and 2010 allow for two large underground longwall mines to extract up to 20 mtpa until 2033. This is an export mine. There have been 5 modifications of the approvals with Mod 6 currently with Dept Planning to extend the underground longwall panels within the existing mine lease area and the life of mine by 2 years to extract an additional 25 Mt coal.
The open cut mine is currently in care and maintenance. Glencore is also planning to extend the longwall operations to the west into EL 8687 over 1994 ha (Bungaba area). A drilling program has been carried out on private property since 2019. Another small exploration lease EL7542 is directly to the north of the Bungaba EL. An operational release (ELA 6253) was approved to the north of the current mining lease in May 2022 covering 4145 ha (now EL 9419) with a term of six years to 2028.
GLENCORE’S RESPONSE TO SUBMISSIONS MOD 6
The response to Mod 6 submissions was inadequate and selective in that they failed to address all the issues raised in the submissions from the public and Government agencies, in particular water impacts.
The Federal Independent Expert Science Committee (IESC) made significant comments:
"Modelled predictions of water interception from Ulan Mine have consistently underestimated impacted volumes. The Independent Expert Scientific Committee has limited confidence in the groundwater model used to predict impacts from this mine on surface and groundwater."
- The Glencore Ulan Coal Mine crosses under the Great Dividing Range and takes water from both the Hunter River catchment and the Murray Darling Basin.
- This mine already has approval to extract 20 million tonnes of coal per year until 2033. Modification 6 plans for an additional 25 million tonnes of coal to be extracted until 2035.
- This mine is predicted to take over 10,500 million litres (4,400 Olympic swimming pools) of water from this sensitive landscape by 2027.
- Groundwater is the key source of baseflows to rivers in this region.
- Ulan Modification 6 will draw even more water from the Murray Darling Basin and they don’t have water licences to cover this impact. The predictions also fail to factor in the impacts of climate change
- Water impacts from underground mining will continue for thousands of years into the future, if not forever, because groundwater systems are destroyed through drainage and collapse into the underground void.
- Ulan Modification 6 will damage an additional 853 hectares of landscape through subsidence, water, biodiversity, and cultural heritage impacts.
Glencore is actively drilling in exploration areas (EL 8687, EL 9363 and EL 9419 - see map above) with the aim of expanding coal mining operations to assess the presence and quality of coal measures .
Exploration in areas EL 8687 and EL 9363 (or the Bungaba project) commenced in 2019. Approximately 100 drill holes are planned up until the end of 2024 with many already completed. This area is being assessed as the Ulan West Continuation Project, a new large underground mine continuing to the west towards the Talbragar River in the Bungaba/Blue Springs area. A scoping report is expected to be lodged with the Department of Planning and Environment in early 2024. This will outline the proposed mine layout and likely impacts. This area has many small holdings and farming operations that rely on springs and a high water table that is already impacted by current groundwater drawdown through Ulan Mine operations.
A drilling program is also planned to commence in another new exploration area granted by the previous NSW Coalition Government in February 2022 (EL 9419). This area is to the north of existing underground operations with 12 exploration drill holes planned for 2024. Consultation with affected landholders in the Turill area has commenced. This area crosses the Great Dividing Range, includes a number of permanent creeks and important water sources.