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Offsetting Environmental Impacts to Facilitate Mining

By Sarah Fish, David Snashall, James Steater
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Increasing pressures on land, the environment and society from economic development have
often resulted in conflicting and competing demands that are not always sustainable. Rio
Tinto Coal Australia (RTCA) faced such a challenge to its proposed new open cut extension
at the Warkworth Coal Mine in the Upper Hunter Valley of NSW. The existing mine was
planned to intersect its approved boundaries in April 2003, and the extension was required to
allow it to extend the continuity of its operation and increase unprocessed coal output up to
18 million tonnes per annum. Without approval, the mine was facing wind down and closure
of operations. Environmental impact assessments conducted in the mine extension area
identified sensitive ecological issues including the presence of threatened species listed
under both the State Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 and the Commonwealth
Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 2000, regionally significant
corridors for affected species of birds and bats and dispersal and colonisation habitat for
sedentary species.