Yancoal's Moolarben Coal Mine

This operation covering 80 km2 was first approved in 2007 with 3 open cuts to the south and a longwall mine (UG4) adjacent to the Goulburn River and The Drip gorge. This approval is known as Stage 1. Stage 2 including 2 additional longwall mines (UG1 & UG2) and a large open cut (OC4) to the east was approved in 2015. There have been 17 modifications.

The Moolarben Mine Complex has approval to extract up to 26 mtpa until 2038 across both Stages.

A new project to extend the open-cut (OC3) adjacent to the Munghorn Gap Nature Reserve is currently with Dept Planning to extract an additional 40 Mt up to 2038.
Extensions to Open Cut 4 is being investigated and has had a preliminary assessment.

The project has an exploration licence immediately to the north of the Goulburn River above The Drip gorge.

 This is an export mine.

Yancoal OC3, adjacent to the Munghorn Gap Nature Reserve, is currently before the Department of Planning. Please see the maps above for details of the expansion.

MDEG Submissions Objecting to Open Cut 3 expansion:

Federal EPBC Act Submission
State Submission

Moolarben OC3 Amended Project

There is still no justification to expand the Yancoal Moolarben Coal Mine

Yancoal has released a response to submission report and has lodged project amendments. While the size of the proposed open cut extension is reduced, there will still be impacts on bushland, threatened species, water and landscape. There is no justification to expand the Yancoal Moolarben Mine further into the beautiful Moolarben Valley and closer to the Munghorn Gap Nature Reserve. See the media release from MDEG and MCA here.

There is no reason for the Yancoal Moolarben Mine to continue expanding. 

The impacts of the current approved mine on biodiversity, water and the community are already enormous. While the proposed expansion has been decreased in size, there is no justification to produce a further 30 million tonnes of coal within the life of the approved mine to 2038. Expanding into the southern end of the Moolarben Valley is a step too far. The bushland contains critically endangered species and provides food sources for Koala, Regent Honeyeater and other native animals threatened with extinction.

No amount of biodiversity offsets can replace the existing environment.

Yancoal is still proposing to clear 113ha of woodland. All of the bush they will clear is koala habitat and koalas are recorded on site, including in the middle of one of the proposed pits and breeding is occurring in the area. Of koalas, the BDAR says: "Given that the habitat within the Study Area may be considered as critical to the survival of the local population, and that the Project may result in increased mortality/physiological stress of the species through fragmentation of the landscape, stress and vehicle strike, it is considered that the Project has the potential to lead to a long-term decrease in the size of the population" and "The Project would result in the removal of 113.02 ha of habitat for the Koala. As such, the Project is considered likely to affect habitat that has the potential to be critical to the survival of the species."

Yancoal is still planning to clear 80ha of Regent Honeyeater habitat.

This would increase negative effects along the boundary with Munghorn Gap Nature Reserve.

The estimated direct GHG emissions are 485,000 tonnes over the life of the project, and 47,000 tonnes per year on average.

Moolarben last year reported 181,893 tonnes GHG, so this project would be equivalent to roughly a quarter of the mine's annual emissions.

There is also no justification for this expansion to provide regional jobs.

There have been vacancies at the three Mudgee region coal mines for many years. Additionally, The Moolarben Mine is within the Central West Orana Renewable Energy Zone where the NSW Government is focusing on fast-tracking renewable energy and providing jobs in this industry. It is ridiculous to be expanding coal mining in the area at the same time.

Handy Links:

New Extraction Plan Underground 4 (UG4)

In 2007 the very large Yancoal/Moolarben Mine Stage 1 was approved to allow underground mining operations within 200 metres of the Goulburn River and surrounding fragile sandstone cliffs and gorges including the iconic natural feature known as The Drip.

The Conditions of Approval for the underground mine require:

  • “nil impact to The Drip water supply”  and
  • "Negligible impact or environmental consequences on the Goulburn River.”

However, once the damage is done it is irreversible. Mining within 2 kilometres of this sensitive reach of the Goulburn River is an unacceptable risk.

Yancoal is already mining the first 8 longwall panels in Undergound 4 and is preparing to lodge an Extraction Plan with the Department of Planning for the remaining 9 -14 panels, closest to the Goulburn River corridor, due to commence within 2-4 years.

This represents the greatest mining threat so far to integrity and stability of The Drip gorge and Goulburn River.

Key threats from this underground mining within 200 meters of the river banks and fragile sandstone cliffs and gorges:

  • Collapsed longwall tunnels have caused far field movements of the earth surface up to 2 kms
  • Subsidence could destabilise the fragile sandstone landscape in and around sensitive areas of Goulburn River National Park, making The Drip walking track and river area unsafe for recreational and visitor use
  • Underground mining risks fracturing and draining the upper aquifers (groundwater) that flow to the Gouburn River, removing critical base flows in times of drought
  • Potential to crack the river and reverse surface and groundwater flow into the mine

The Independent Expert Advisory Panel for Mining recommended water monitoring bores to collect base line information in preparation for this next mining phase. Yancoal has only just installed these and does not have sufficient information to include in the Extraction Plan that is expected to be lodged before the end of this year.

The five 1-2 km longwall panels are to be extracted starting at the closest point to the River corridor - any damage will be irreversible and occur at the beginning of mining.

Any "legal fine" could not cover the loss of this iconic natural landscape, loved by many.

Mining within 2 kilometres of the Goulburn River is an unacceptable risk.

Moolarben's Water Monitoring Failure

Yancoal's Moolarben Underground 4 Expansion (UG4) project was approved in 2007 and will mine within 200 metres of the Goulburn River near The Drip picnic area. A long community campaign at the time expressed major concern about the impacts on the river.

The project was approved with the condition for an independent review of its impact on the Goulburn River, Mining in Underground 4 commenced in mid 2022. The Independent Expert Advisory Panel for Underground Mining (IAPUM) established by the NSW Department of Planning and Environment conducted the review and submitted recommendations to Yancoal in 2022. These stressed the importance of monitoring groundwater flows related to the Goulburn River, highlighting various concerns about the project's impact on this vital water source.

However, Yancoal has continued mining in UG4 without implementing the recommendations of the review, causing alarm within the community and environmental experts. The Department of Planning imposed a June 2023 deadline for the installation of critical monitoring data sites, which Yancoal has failed to meet. This delay is particularly concerning when mining of the expansion project is approaching the midway point of its first extraction plan.

Furthermore, the independent panel, has questioned the accuracy of Yancoal's water prediction model, which downplays the potential impact on baseflows to the Goulburn River and The Drip. The IAPUM has challenged the claim that the groundwater near 'The Drip' is not connected to the regional water table.

Consequently, there is a pressing need for a reassessment of the predicted groundwater takes, both for the entire Moolarben Mine site and the specific longwall panels, to ensure the protection of the Goulburn River's baseflow and address concerns about potential water loss and regional drawdown. The ongoing controversy underscores the importance of responsible and sustainable water resource management practices in underground mining operations.

Handy Links:

IAPUM Website
IAPUM report - MCC UG4 Extraction Plan LW401-408

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