THE NSW Department of Planning has questioned the legacy of a 950 hectare final void when coal mining ends at the Mount Thorley Warkworth mine.
The department has asked mine owner Rio Tinto to show it has considered all feasible options to the ‘‘sterilisation’’ of the huge void site, which will be left if expansion of the mine for another 20 years is approved.
The department has also recommended Rio Tinto be required to prepare a mine closure and rehabilitation strategy at least 10 years before the end of mining.
The NSW Planning Assessment Commission will sit on December 18 to hear public submissions on plans to extend Mount Thorley’s approval for 21 years from when its current approval lapses in 2017, and Warkworth for 21 years from when its approval lapses in 2021.
Public concern about final voids left by mines follows the Planning Assessment Commission’s expression of ‘‘significant concern’’ about Anglo American’s lack of progress rehabilitating Drayton mine near Muswellbrook.
The commission said it was ‘‘not confident’’ Anglo’s rehabilitation strategy at Drayton would be followed regardless of whether the company’s third bid for its controversial Drayton South mine went ahead or not.