Vickery coal mine
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The Vickery coal mine was operated as an open cut mine between 1991 and 1996 and produced approximately 6 million tonnes of thermal coal. The mine is located approximately 18 kilometres southeast of Boggabri and 25km north of Gunnedah in New South Wales.
Whitehaven Coal were given permission for a new opencast at Vickery in 2014. As of December 2019 Whitehaven Coal are applying to extend the existing permission. A mine extracting up to 4.5 million tonnes of coal has been approved. The company is applying to extend this to up to 10 mtpa.
The undated image below shows the exact location of the proposed mine. 18 kilometres southeast of Boggabri, New South Wales.
Coal Mine Background
The project would involve the extension of open cut mining operations at the approved, but yet to be constructed, Vickery Coal Project. The EIS was placed on public exhibition between September and 25 October 2018.
The mine was operated by Coal & Allied, which is 75% owned by Rio Tinto Coal Australia. After the closure of the mine, Coal & Allied retained ownership of the project. In November 2009 Coal & Allied entered into an agreement to sell the mine to Whitehaven Coal Mining Limited for $31.5million in cash along with a further 1,156 hectares of land in the Gunnedah region.
Whitehaven Coal stated that the deal comprised "Authorisation 406 (A406) and Coal Lease 316 (CL316)", "approximately 3,450 ha of associated land" and "399 megalitres per year of water licences."
In the media release announcing the purchase, Whitehaven stated that it hold "several tenements adjacent to CL316 and until recently produced export coal from its Canyon Mine which is located immediately to the north of Vickery. Whitehaven also holds EL4699 which is located northwest of Vickery and the company’s Rocglen Mine is immediately to the east."
The company stated that "in near term, Whitehaven intends to focus on the exploration and definition of an open cut area called East Bluevale that is contiguous to Whitehaven’s West Bluevale open cut area which contains approximately 4.95 million tonnes of measured, indicated and inferred resources" and stated that three of the nine deep coal seams "are believed to have economic potential" and "expected to be amenable to underground mining methods. The quality of these coal seams ranges from low ash, high energy thermal coal to high volatile soft coking coal."
Whitehaven Coal plans to remove coal by road haulage, until it builds a new railway spur. The processing plant could then also process coal from other Whitehaven coal sites. The rail spur is contentious in the local community. Whitehaven Coal say that it is needed to "reduced amenity impacts along the Approved Road Transport Route (e.g. noise and traffic) associated with the cessation of road haulage of ROM [run of mine] coal to Gunnedah."
In May 2020 the extension to the Vickery project was deemed "approvable" by the New South Wales Planning department, allowing the plans to proceed to scrutiny from the New South Wales Independent Planning Commission, which is expected to make its final decision before the end of August 2020. It was reported that Whitehaven Coal does not expect to make a final investment decision on the Vickery project this year, reflective of the fact that coal prices have declined so sharply during the period of the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak to the point where an estimated 30% of Australian mines are no longer making money.
In August 2020 the New South Wales planning authorities granted Whitehaven Coal approval to develop the Vickery mine expansion near Boggabri, therefore allowing 10 million tonnes of coal per year to be extracted over 30 years. The approval came with 184 conditions attached. A local farmer Sally Hunter commented to The Guardian: “Boggabri will now essentially be hemmed in from all sides by large coal mines. It will no longer be a farming community in any sense, but a coal mining service centre. Families have left, and the social fabric of the community is being torn apart. Farmers near the mine will struggle to compete with Whitehaven for access to water, and the dust and noise will create major issues.”
Some of Lock the Gate's objections include:
- "People in the small community of Boggabri believe the community cannot handle a fifth mine in close proximity to the town. They’re concerned that the scale is too large for the town to cope with.
- The area adjacent to the proposed mine is strategic agricultural land and the impacts of dust and noise will make this land unliveable and likely impact the quality of crops grown there.
- Already, 76 family farms have been purchased by Whitehaven in close proximity to the town of Boggabri. This has hollowed out the township, affected local businesses and rent the social fabric of the district. This proposal will mean more rural properties bought up because of air and noise pollution, irreversibly changing Boggabri."
Climate Court Ruling
In March 2021, a group of eight teenagers launched a class action lawsuit against the Vickery mine expansion, citing climate change and risks to their future. On July 7, 2021, the Federal Court of Australia sided with the claimants and ordered the Environment Minister to consider climate risks posed to young people in the decision over the mine's expansion. According to the judgement, “The risk of harm that the minister must take reasonable care to avoid is personal injury or death to the children arising from the emission of carbon dioxide from the burning of coal extracted from the extension project." Bloomberg News noted that it may "set a precedent for all fossil fuel projects." Yet in September 2021, the federal environment minister, Sussan Ley, approved Whitehaven Coal’s Vickery mine extension.
- Sponsor: Vickery Coal
- Parent Company: Whitehaven Coal
- Location: Near Boggabri, 25 kilometres north of Gunnedah, North West New South Wales
- GPS Coordinates: -30.764670, 150.178940 (exact)
- Status: Proposed
- Production Capacity: 10 mtpa
- Total Resource: 537 million tonnes
- Mineable Reserves: 168 million tonnes
- Coal type: Semi-soft coking coal, PCI coal and thermal coal for export
- Mine Size:
- Mine Type: Opencast
- Start Year:
- Source of Financing:
Articles and Resources
- Whitehaven Coal, "Whitehaven acquires the Vickery Project from Coal & Allied", Media Release, October 20, 2009.(Unavailable)
- Whitehaven Coal, "Vickery Extension Project – Submissions Report", page 7, Whitehaven coal website, accessed 4 December 2019.
- New South Wales Government, "Major Projects", NSW planning portal, accessed 4 December 2019.
- Whitehaven Coal, "Vickery Extension Project – Submissions Report", page 1, Whitehaven coal website, accessed 4 December 2019.
- Coal & Allied, "ASX release", Media Release, October 20, 2009 (Unavailable).
- Whitehaven Coal, "Vickery Extension Project – Submissions Report", page 15, Whitehaven coal website, accessed 4 December 2019.
- "Win for Whitehaven as Vickery clears hurdle", The Australian Financial Review, May 20, 2020.
- Lisa Cox, "Whitehaven Vickery mine expansion to extract 250% more coal approved by NSW", The Guardian, Aug. 12, 2020.
- Lock the Gate, "Save Our Sunburnt Country", Lock the Gate website, accessed 4 December 2019.
- Australian teens lead class action against Whitehaven's coal mine expansion, Reuters, March 1, 2021
- David Stringer, Coal Giant Australia Must Consider Climate in Mine Approvals , Bloomberg, July 7, 2021
- Whitehaven Coal’s Vickery mine given green light by environment minister, Guardian, 15 Sep 2021
- Whitehaven Coal, "Vickery Extension Project – Submissions Report", page 5, Whitehaven coal website, accessed 4 December 2019.
- Fast Markets MB, "Whitehaven gets approval for Vickery Coal project in Australia ", FAst Markets MB website, 22 September 2014.
- Whitehaven Coal, "Vickery Extension Project – Submissions Report", page 205, Whitehaven coal website, accessed 4 December 2019.