New doubts have been cast over plans to reopen Dartbrook coal mine near Aberdeen after its owner said it was unable to finalise a decision on capital raising.
Australian Pacific Coal issued a statement to the Australian Stock Exchange last week advising that it required more time to complete a review of the project.
"The company advises that it has decided not to proceed with the capital raising at this time as it has been unable to reach agreement on terms acceptable to the board," the statement said.
It said that the strategic review would continue to assess all available options for the Dartbrook project.
It is not the first time the mine's economic viability has been called into question.
The Independent Planning Commission previously rejected a proposal to reopen the mine to extract six million tonnes of coal a year until 2027 because of concerns about the project's economic viability.
It also said extending the existing contract wasn't in the public interest due to the foreseeable impacts a coal operation would have on the environment.
The company has been attempting to restart the mine, which has been in care and maintenance for the past 15 years, since 2019.
Australian Pacific Coal and the Independent Planning Commission reached an agreement in November 2020 that would allow it to continue operating to 2027 but without the construction of a new truck haulage route and other surface infrastructure that the company sought.
Lock the Gate Alliance, which has campaigned to prevent the mine from reopening, said agriculture and tourism should underpin the economic future of the Upper Hunter rather than mining.
"Upper Hunter Shire Council has an economic plan that is based on agriculture and tourism," alliance spokesperson Georgina Woods said.
"The council has been resolute in its position that allowing mining activities in the shire is not compatible with its vision of the shire's future.
"What the valley needs is careful and inclusive regional planning that delivers lasting jobs and sustainability, and those things are put at risk when short term and risky mining operations are favoured by the State Government."
The group argued the 2014 data used did not take into account the impact of the nearby Mount Pleasant mine which began operating in late 2016.
"Average annual coarse (PM10) dust levels in Aberdeen in the last two years were several points higher than they were in 2014, and last year they exceeded the national standard," the group said.
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Lock the Gate also criticised the company for failing to address how the carbon emissions produced from the extension - 113.8 million tonnes, including downstream emissions, over the life of the project - would impact the climate, both locally and globally.
"The terrifying and destructive fires of earlier this year are still fresh in people's minds," Ms Woods said.
"Australian Pacific Coal not only wants to add fuel to future fires through this extension, but it barely even acknowledges that it is doing so.
"The Independent Planning Commission must reject the Dartbrook extension due to the unacceptable impact it will have on people's health and the environment."
Australian Pacific Coal was approached for comment.
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