United Wambo coal project

From Global Energy Monitor
This article is part of the Global Coal Mine Tracker, a project of Global Energy Monitor.
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The United Wambo coal project is a proposed extension to the Wambo Mine and the United mine. The site lies west of Singleton in the Hunter Valley of New South Wales, Australia.[1]

If the extension goes ahead the mines will operate for a further 23 years and extract a total of 150 million tonnes of coal.[2]

The application was approved in 2019 "in an "unprecedented" move by the IPC [Independent Planning Commission], any coal extracted from the new 'super pit' near Singleton can only be exported to countries that have ratified the Paris Climate Agreement or have policies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

"A condition like this has never been imposed on an Australian coal mine in my experience," said Lock The Gate coordinator Georgina Woods."[2]


The undated image below shows the exact location of the proposed mine.

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Coal Mine Background

The United mine began operations in 1989 and the Wambo coal mining operations were established in the late 1960's. There have been open-cut and underground works at both mines. Operations were suspended at the United mine in March 2010 with the mine entering into care and maintenance.

According to the Glencore website, "The current existing and approved Wambo open cut coal mine adjoins the United operations, and was planned to produce up to 8 Mtpa of run of mine (ROM) coal up to 2017. The combined Wambo underground and open cut operations, have approval to extract up to 14.7 Mtpa run of mine (ROM) coal, and to transport up to 15 Mtpa product coal via the approved train loading facility until 2025. Wambo has lodged a modification to development consent DA 305-7-2003, which includes an extension to the life of the open cut up to and including 2020, and an extension to the life of the underground operations to 2032.

In November 2014, a 50:50 Joint Venture between United Collieries Pty Limited (United Collieries) and Wambo Coal Pty Limited (Wambo Coal) was announced which, once commenced, will combine the extraction and exploration rights for a number of mining tenements at United and Wambo. Subject to receipt of all necessary approvals, the Joint Venture will look to develop the United Wambo Open Cut Coal Mine Project (the Project) that combines the existing open cut operations at Wambo with a proposed new open cut coal mine at United."[1]


Lock the Gate spokesperson, Georgina Woods, said, “With this new proposal, there would be 25 kilometres of nearly uninterrupted open cuts between Broke and Jerry’s Plains, straddling two major waterways and causing cumulative noise and air pollution."[3]

Georgia Woods from campaign group, Lock the Gate, says, “This mine will increase harmful levels of particle pollution in the Hunter, which already regularly exceeds national air pollution guidelines... This mine is right in the central part of the Valley that is most badly affected by air pollution. Singleton residents will suffer as a result of this expansion."[4]

Lock the Gate says that "the mine would still lead to nearly 260 million tonnes of additional greenhouse pollution in the atmosphere, which would have a direct impact on global warming. “Frankly, we don’t have confidence in the Department of Planning’s priorities when it comes to minimising greenhouse gas emissions from exported Hunter coal,” Ms Woods said.[4]

“The Department has shown itself incapable of maturely dealing with this issue and piled pressure on the Commission to stop it from creating this modest requirement to address it.”[4]

Ecological impacts

"On 7 December 2015, the Project was determined to be a Controlled Action requiring approval under the EPBC Act from the Commonwealth Minister for the Environment due to its potential impact on the following matters of national environmental significance: • Central Hunter Valley Eucalypt Forest and Woodland (a Critically Endangered Ecological Community (CEEC) listed under the EPBC Act) • regent honeyeater (a threatened species listed in the EPBC Act) • swift parrot (a threatened species listed in the EPBC Act) • spotted-tailed quoll (a threatened species listed in the EPBC Act) • a water resource."[5]

On its website Lock the Gate says "Lock the Gate Alliance is accusing the Department of Planning of rubber-stamping a biodiversity offsetting stitch up to let the United Wambo mine clear over 200 hectares of a nationally critically endangered woodland despite warnings the ecological community could become extinct in a few decades.

The remnant proposed to be bulldozed for the new mine is in moderate to good condition, which means, according to the Commonwealth Government’s conservation advice it is “critical to the survival” of the community overall.

Lock the Gate estimates there has been cumulative clearing of over 3,000 hectares of the Central Hunter Valley Eucalypt Forest and Woodland for coal mines since 2007.

But last month the Department of Planning recommended the mine proceed because the proponent, a joint venture of Glencore and Peabody Australia, had an adequate offset package to compensate for the loss.

Lock the Gate says that the offset package being proposed by the company is incomplete, and up to a third of the area put forward by the company as compensatory habitat is their own mining pits with the promise they will be rehabilitated into the future."[3]

Project Details

  • Sponsor: A 50:50 Joint Venture between United Collieries and Wambo Coal[1]
  • Parent Company: United is owned 95 per cent by Glencore Coal and 5 per cent by the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union and is managed by Glencore. Wambo is a subsidiary of Peabody Energy Australia[1]
  • Location: 16 kilometres (km) west of Singleton in the Hunter Valley of New South Wales[1]
  • GPS Coordinates: -32.549369, 150.984787 (exact)[1]
  • Status: Operation[1]
  • Production Capacity: 10 mtpa[2]
  • Total Resource:
  • Mineable Reserves: 150 million tonnes[2]
  • Coal type: Thermal and semi-soft coking coal[6]
  • Mine Size:
  • Mine Type: Open-cut
  • Start Year:
  • Source of Financing:

Articles and resources


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 Glencore, "United Wambo open cut coal mine project", Glencore website, accessed 6 January 2020.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Amelia Bernasconi, "United Wambo open cut coal 'super pit' approved for NSW Hunter Valley with export conditions", ABC News, 30 August 2019.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Lock the Gate, "Public hearing for United Wambo super mine goes ahead despite crucial lack of information", Lock the Gate website, 8 February 2018.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Lock the Gate, "Burdening the future: IPC approves United Wambo despite air pollution and greenhouse gases", Lock the Gate website, 29 August 2019.
  5. Peabody and Glencore, "United Wambo opencut coal mine project", page 100, NSW Planning Portal, August 2016.
  6. Glencore, "Geoogy and coal reserves", Glencore website, accessed 6 January 2020.

Articles and resources

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