Metropolitan Coal Project

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The Metropolitan Coal Project is a proposed expansion of the Metropolitan Colliery owned by Peabody Energy Australia via its subsidiary Helensburgh Coal. (Peabody Energy Australia in turn is s subsidiary of Peabody Energy). The Metropolitan Colliery is located 30 km north of Wollongong.

Expansion proposal

The expansion would produce an additional 1 million tonnes per annum and cost $70 million and employ 50 people during construction.[1]

On its website, Peabody Energy Australia states that key components of the expansion project would be:[2]

  • "Continued development of underground mining areas at the Metropolitan Colliery (23 years)."
  • "Increased saleable coal production - from 1.5 Million tonnes per annum (Mtpa) to 2.8 Mtpa."
  • "Continued transport of product coal by train to the Port Kembla Coal Terminal and by truck to the Corrimal and Coalcliff Coke Works."
  • "Upgrade of the Coal Handling and Preparation Plant and associated surface facilities located in Helensburgh."
  • "Continued transport of coal reject material to the Glenlee Washery and on-site underground placement of coal reject material within completed sections of the mine."
  • "Upgrade of supporting infrastructure systems (e.g. ventilation, gas management, water management and underground mining systems)."
  • "The operational workforce (i.e. staff and on-site contractors) is expected to remain stable at 320 people."
  • "An additional short-term construction workforce of up to 50 people."

Objections to the proposal

In November 2008, the Nature Conservation Council, the peak environment group in New South Wales, expressed its opposition to the project and longwall mining in particular. In a letter to the NSW Department of Planning, the NCC wrote that it opposed longwall mining "on the basis that it has undeniably immediate negative effects upon the surrounding environment[2], groundwater[3] and surface streams and thus native flora and fauna. As a dry continent, groundwater loss issues are particular relevant in an Australian context. Many of these effects are caused by longwall mining related subsidence. These effects include (among others) the release of gases, loss of aquatic habitats and the degradation of water quality. Many of these impacts have occurred within the Waratah Rivulet which was recently longwall mined by Metropolitan Colliery longwalls. Severe subsidence led to massive water loss and potentially led to drastic alterations to upland swamps. We feel that given the draining of Waratah Rivulet and the well documented collapse of Flatrock Swamp further undermining of the area is unacceptable."[3]

They also stated that "there are many other areas of concern that should be raised which make this project unacceptable:

  • (1) The coal produced would release approximately 7 million tonnes of carbon dioxide each year into a world that drastically needs to reduce emissions.
  • (2) Approval for a 23 year licence would lock in the mistakes of today without room for modifications to the mining based on new findings.
  • (3) Longwall mining damage to upland swamps cannot be remediated.
  • (4) The current methods for riverbed remediation often fail, and so mining should not occur under the pretence of rehabilitation.
  • (5) Shortfalls to Illawarra’s water supply."[3]

Articles and resources


  1. Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics, "Minerals and energy: Major development projects", April 2010. (Pdf). The list is also available in Excel format here.)
  2. Peabody Energy Australia, "Metropolitan Coal Project", Peabody Energy Australia website, accessed August 2010.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Nature Conservation Council, "Metropolitan Coal Project- Peabody Energy Longwall Mine", Letter to Alison Thomas at the NSW Government Department of Planning, November 24, 2008.

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