The NSW Environmental Protection Authority and Muswellbrook Shire Council have lodged submissions critical of the Mt Pleasant coal mine expansion proposal, highlighting the project's potential contribution to Upper Hunter air pollution levels.
The submissions, which are under consideration by the NSW Planning Department, criticise proponent MACH Energy for failing to provide sufficient information relating to water use and air quality.
MACH Energy wants to extend the life of the open cut mine to 2048. This would involve the extraction of an additional 247 million tonnes of run-of-mine coal over the life of the project through the mining of deeper coal seams and optimisation of the north, central and south pits.
The proposal would also increase the rate of coal extraction, handling and processing of run-of-mine coal up to 21 million tonnes per annum from 10.5 million tonnes per annum.
The EPA said based on the information provided in MACH's environmental impact statement, it was "unable to provide recommended conditions of approval for the project".
Muswellbrook Council's submission also raised concerns that the size of the proposal's waste rock pile may impact transmissions from the Rossgole communication towers.
"Given the integrated waste rock emplacement landform sits between the Rossgole transmission towers and parts of the town of Muswellbrook, the proponent should investigate whether the emplacement would impact on transmissions," the council's submission said.
Lock the Gate Alliance NSW spokesperson Georgina Woods said the concerns raised by the council and the EPA indicated thresholds had been reached for the scale of mining impact Muswellbrook should have to tolerate.
"People living in Muswellbrook and other parts of the Upper Hunter are already more likely than others around the state to experience respiratory and cardiovascular illness," Ms Woods said.
"The town is also increasingly experiencing more days where the official air quality rating is listed as 'unacceptable.
"A further expansion of this colossal coal mine on the doorstep of Muswellbrook is absolutely not what the doctor ordered to remedy this health crisis."
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