The Project life is approximately 25 years, comprising a two year construction period and a 23 year operational period. Underground mining operations are expected to commence in year 7. Various rehabilitation and decommissioning activities will be undertaken during, and following the 25 year Project life.
It is anticipated that the approved mining operations will be decommissioned around 2044. A Mine Closure Plan will be developed for the Bylong Coal Project five years prior to decommission, which will consider regulatory requirements, new decommission technologies and stakeholder expectations.
Project planning and approvals
Exploration work to date has defined a mineable coal resource within Authorisations 287 and 342. KEPCO is seeking development consent under the NSW Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979.
The first step in the approvals process was an independent assessment of the potential impacts by the Project on Strategic Agricultural Land and associated groundwater by the Mining and Petroleum Gateway Panel. This resulted in the Project receiving a conditional Gateway Certificate in April 2014. The outcomes of the gateway process guided the Secretary's Environmental Assessment Requirements (SEARs - formally Director General Requirements or DGRs), issued by the NSW Department of Planning and Environment (DPE April) in June 2014.
The SEARs defined comprehensive environmental assessment requirements to be addressed by the Bylong Coal Project Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The SEARs are available to the public on the DPE website www.majorprojects.planning.nsw.gov.au (type “Bylong Coal Project” in the project search box). The SEARs were revised in November 2014 to reflect minor changes to the mine plan.
The Project was also referred to the Australian Government Department of Environment (DoE, now Department of the Environment and Energy (DoEE)) and declared a ‘controlled action’ in early 2014. Subsequently, the Project is required to assess Matters of National Environmental Significance under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). The assessment process under the NSW Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 has been formally accredited for the purpose of assessing the impacts of the controlled action. DPE’s SEARs for the Project incorporate DoE's environmental assessment requirements.
The Development Application (DA) and supporting project EIS were submitted to DPE in July 2015, and placed on public exhibition by DPE for a period of 6 weeks from Wednesday 23 September 2015 until Friday 6 November 2015. DPE received a total of 383 submissions regarding the Project EIS.
In response to these submissions, KEPCO prepared a detailed Response to Submissions report, which was submitted to DPE in March 2016. Additional matters raised by a small number of stakeholders were addressed in a Supplementary Response to Submissions report submitted in August 2016.
In January 2017, the then Minister for Planning requested the Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) (now known as the Independent Planning Commission (IPC)) conduct a Review of the Project. In May 2017, the PAC held a public hearing of submissions from residents, the local community and other stakeholders on the Project.
On 26 July 2017, the PAC released the Bylong Coal Project Review Report. The Review Report and other information relating to the Project approval assessment are available here.
The PAC Review Report stated that the impacts to the property known as Tarwyn Park required re-evaluation by the Heritage Council of NSW (the Heritage Council) and the Minister for Heritage. The Heritage Council was subsequently requested by DPE to provide independent comment.
KEPCO lodged a Response to PAC Review Report with DPE in January 2018 to respond to the matters raised by the PAC. The Heritage Council responded to DPE in February 2018. In May 2018, as a consequence of Heritage Council advice and previous comments raised within the PAC Review Report, DPE requested further information from KEPCO in relation to a revised mine plan to address that:
- Open cut mining and overburden emplacement areas (OEA) avoid the Tarwyn Park property; and
- Redesign of overburden emplacement areas to minimise visual impacts and maximise the integration of the proposed final landform with the surrounding topography.
KEPCO submitted a Supplementary Information report to DPE in July 2018. The Supplementary Information included a revised mine plan which removes open cut mining from Tarwyn Park.
In October 2018, DPE provided its Assessment Report for the Project which assessed the information provided in KEPCO’s Response to the PAC Review Report and Supplementary Information report. DPE also released its recommended conditions of consent, including for open cut mining to remain off the Tarwyn Park property (if approved).
On 18 September 2019, the IPC announced its decision to refuse the Project and provided a statement of reasons for the decision. The IPC held a public meeting in Mudgee on 7 November 2018, prior to making their determination. To learn more about the IPC determination – visit the Bylong Coal Project page on the IPC website.
For further information on the EIS and approvals process, please visit the Environmental Approvals page.
KEPCO will be required to obtain a number of other licences and approvals under New South Wales legislation to enable the construction and operation of the Project. Relevant approvals will be sought under legislation including, but potentially not limited to:
- Roads Act 1993
- Crown Lands Management Act 2016
- Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997
- Forestry Act 2012
- Radiation Control Act 1990
- Mining Act 1992
- Water Management Act 2000
- Work Health and Safety Regulation 2017
- Work Health and Safety (Mines and Petroleum Sites) Regulation 2014
Some of these approvals will be required prior to commencement of construction activities, while others may only be required at various stages of construction and operation of the Project.
The purpose of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is to describe in detail the Project and existing environment of the Project area. The EIS identifies potential environmental, economic and social impacts of the proposed development, and nominates impact management measures through avoidance, mitigation and offsetting. The EIS also identifies actions to enhance project benefits and social opportunities from the Project for the local region.
Collection of environmental monitoring data commenced in April 2011 and is being used to assess the baseline environmental conditions and set monitoring thresholds. In addition, extensive community and stakeholder consultation is ongoing to ensure that stakeholder issues are adequately addressed.
The EIS was submitted to the Department of Planning and Environment (DPE) in July 2015, and was placed on public exhibition for a period of 6 weeks from Wednesday 23 September 2015 until Friday 6 November 2015. For further information on the EIS and approvals process, please visit the Environmental Approvals page.
A copy of the EIS can be found here.
The EIS was prepared in accordance with the Secretary's Environmental Assessment Requirements (SEARs) issued by the DPE and is supported by a suite of robust technical studies coupled with an extensive community and stakeholder engagement program. A number of the key technical studies have been peer reviewed by experienced specialists.
KEPCO is committed to rolling out an industry leading rehabilitation program. Accordingly, a Rehabilitation Strategy and BSAL Reinstatement Strategy and a draft Rehabilitation Management Plan have been prepared for the Project. The majority of the areas to be disturbed by the open cut operations and associated infrastructure will be rehabilitated to include a mix of pasture, fodder cropping and native vegetation areas. The final landform will reinstate an equivalent amount of higher quality agricultural lands (i.e. Class 3 to mitigate the long-term impact of mining activities.
Rehabilitation of the open cut mining areas will commence progressively in the third year of mining, minimising the time land is removed from productive use. Early progressive rehabilitation will ensure that the majority of the open cut mining areas will be rehabilitated and returned to a landform consistent with pre-mining conditions within 10 years of the project commencing. The balance of the open cut area will be progressively backfilled and rehabilitated with reject materials generated through the underground mining operation.
The key proposed transport routes for the Project include Wollar Road, Bylong Valley Way and Upper Bylong Road. Access to the Project will generally be via Upper Bylong Road from Bylong Valley Way. Road intersection upgrades are proposed for where Wollar Road and Upper Bylong Road join the Bylong Valley Way.
The development of the proposed open cut mining areas will likely require the closure and realignment of a section of Upper Bylong Road. The realignment (to be known as East Link Road) would occur along the southern side of the Sandy Hollow to Gulgong Railway Line to connect with Wooleys Road, providing continued access for neighbouring landholders and relevant authorities to the east of the project. A section of Wooleys Road will also be closed with access being provided via the proposed East Link Road.
KEPCO has reached an agreement with the Mid-Western Regional Council (MWRC), should the Project be approved, for the contribution to road maintenance and road safety upgrades on the regional road network within the MWRC local government area that will be used by Project-related traffic. This includes funding to upgrade sections of Wollar Road (including through the Munghorn Gap Nature Reserve) and some pertinent sections of the Bylong Valley Way, as well as an annual road maintenance contributions throughout the life of the Project.
KEPCO has proposed to widen Upper Bylong Road from Bylong Valley Way to the proposed mine infrastructure areas to accommodate the potential mine traffic. A private access road is to be constructed over the Sandy Hollow to Gulgong Railway Line to access the underground mine infrastructure area incorporating the existing level railway crossing.
The Project is likely to increase traffic movements on local roads. The level of project related traffic will vary depending on the project phase, with peak movements expected during project construction. The proposed transport routes have been refined as part of the Project EIS and feasibility studies, with the aim of minimising impacts to the local community and general public. KEPCO will implement traffic management plans to ensure safe and efficient management of the traffic network throughout construction and operational phases of the Project.
It is proposed that a rail spur and loading loop be constructed to adjoin the existing Sandy Hollow-Gulgong Railway Line. The rail loop (and loading facility) will be located on the northern side of the main line. All coal produced will be transported via rail to the Port of Newcastle. The Bylong Coal Project will require an average of two trains per day. There is adequate capacity of the Sandy Hollow to Gulgong Railway Line to accommodate this demand.
Project workforce and procurement
The Project will benefit local and regional economies by providing an up to approximately 650 full-time equivalent jobs during peak project construction. The Project’s operational phase is estimated to generate approximately up to 450 full-time equivalent jobs during peak production. KEPCO is committed to ensuring procurement opportunities filter down the supply chain to facilitate both direct and indirect procurement prospects for local suppliers.
The Project will require employees from a range of professions such as engineers, safety managers, environmental professionals, heavy machinery operators, skilled underground mine workers and maintenance personnel. Direct employment opportunities and tenders for suppliers and contractors will be advertised on the Project website and via other appropriate channels, such as newspaper and radio advertisements, as required. Interested parties are able to register their details here.
KEPCO is committed to providing locals an opportunity to participate in the Project. KEPCO is focused on achieving an efficient supply chain while maximising economic growth of the region by affording local businesses the opportunity to grow and build their capacity to service the Project. Where it is reasonable, lawful and economically practical, KEPCO and its contractors will source professional and contract labour from within the Project’s region, New South Wales and Australia. KEPCO has a Local Content Policy and is preparing a Local Content Strategy to facilitate the engagement of local employees and suppliers.
KEPCO is committed to effective social performance management and maintaining positive community relations. Facilitating Indigenous participation through employment and business opportunities is a key component of this, and of continuing to enhance the company’s social license to operate.
KEPCO’s approach to Indigenous participation considers not only the employment of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people but also the engagement with, and development of, Indigenous businesses and the Indigenous people living in the communities in which we operate. KEPCO has an Indigenous Participation Policy and is preparing an Indigenous Participation Strategy to facilitate Indigenous engagement.
KEPCO is committed to providing competitive local, New South Wales (NSW) and Australian suppliers with full, fair and reasonable opportunity to participate in economic opportunities afforded by the Project. KEPCO is focused on achieving an efficient supply chain while maximising economic growth of the region by affording local businesses the opportunity to grow and build their capacity to service the Project. Where it is reasonable, lawful and economically practical, KEPCO and its contractors will source professional and contract labour from within the Project’s region, NSW and Australia. KEPCO has a Local Content Policy and is preparing a Local Content Strategy to facilitate the engagement of local employees and suppliers.
Following extensive and ongoing consultation with Mid-Western Regional Council, KEPCO proposes to accommodate its workforce in the local area (that is, the geographical area within a one hour commute of the Project site), including:
- Existing KEPCO-owned housing in the Bylong Valley
- Private housing in the local area
- Short-term (e.g. rental and motel) accommodation options in the local area as necessary.
KEPCO is committed to no net loss of agricultural productivity from the area over the life the Project. KEPCO is committed to maintaining agricultural production on the land it owns over the duration of the Project. KEPCO has prepared a Farm Management Plan and appointed a Farm Manager to run KEPCO-owned properties. The plan brings together previously disparate farms under a single management plan and KEPCO is confident the agricultural output from the area can be maintained to current levels.
Historically Tarwyn Park and Bylong Park in the Bylong Valley have been used for thoroughbred breeding. However, Tarwyn Park has not been used as a thoroughbred operation for well over a decade, and Bylong Park relocated its breeding operations to the Hunter Valley in 2012.
The mapped Equine Critical Industry Cluster (CIC) located in the Bylong Valley is an isolated pocket located at the absolute extremity of the mapped Equine CIC, approximately 1½ hours’ drive from the centre of the thoroughbred breeding industry in Scone. The mapped equine CIC within the Project boundary accounts for less than 1% of total mapped Equine CIC within the Upper Hunter region. The New South Wales Department of Planning and Environment's (DPE) Assessment Report acknowledged that the Project is unlikely to have any significant impact on the Equine CIC.
KEPCO is committed to a rehabilitation strategy that ensures that the capacity of land and soil within the Equine CIC is reinstated to its pre-mining land use and is suitable for equine related activities.
The changes to the surface of the land that occur after the underground support structures are removed at the completion of a longwall mining operation are known as subsidence. These changes may include cracking or increased undulation of the ground surface, increased ponding in waterways and some changes to cliff faces in the vicinity of the underground extraction area.
Subsidence as a result of the Project is variable across the Subsidence Study Area and is predicted to peak at a maximum of around 3.3 metres. The areas likely to be affected include several agricultural properties owned by KEPCO Bylong Australia (KEPCO), the Bylong Quarry, Bylong State Forest, Bylong Valley Way and other communication and power infrastructure located on KEPCO owned land. KEPCO will continue to liaise with stakeholders likely to be impacted. Much of the agricultural land that will be impacted by subsidence will be rehabilitated and revegetated to form part of the Project’s Biodiversity Offset Areas.
KEPCO will develop detailed Extraction Plans prior to the commencement of longwall mining operations which include specific plans to manage subsidence impacts on privately owned properties, built features and roads, water, biodiversity, heritage features and public safety.
Underground mining will be positioned and undertaken in a manner to minimise subsidence related impacts on sensitive surface features. Mitigation measures will be put in place to prevent or correct any incidental impacts to the various surface infrastructure within the Subsidence Study Area, including the Bylong Valley Way and a 22kV electricity distribution line.
In its Assessment Report, the New South Wales Department of Planning and Environment acknowledged that the subsidence associated with the Project is able to be minimised, managed, or at least compensated for, to an acceptable standard. The DPE has recommended a suite of conditions that reflect the standard framework for managing subsidence in NSW, and require KEPCO to:
- meet a number of performance measures to protect or manage impacts on natural and built features within the subsidence affectation area
- remediate or repair subsidence impacts
- provide additional offsets in the event that impacts or consequences are greater than the performance measures
prepare and implement comprehensive Extraction Plan(s).
Rural amenity and community
As an integral part of establishing the Project, KEPCO is committed to the management of potential social impacts and to creating long-term social and economic benefits to communities within the Bylong Valley and surrounding areas. A Preliminary Social Impact Management Plan (SIMP) has been prepared to facilitate stakeholders’ understanding of the potential social impacts and opportunities associated with the Project, and set a framework for how these potential impacts and benefits will be appropriately managed and monitored throughout the life of the Project. The Preliminary SIMP identifies key management tools and five key action plans which aim at mitigating social impacts and enhancing social benefits.
To inform the preparation of the Preliminary SIMP, the socio-economic baseline was updated and additional stakeholder engagement undertaken to verify social impacts and inform the proposed social impact management measures.
A Final SIMP will be prepared should Project approval be granted. The community will continue to be consulted to provide their input to the Final SIMP, including management plans, prior to the SIMP being completed.
KEPCO recognises the scenic setting within which the Project is located and has given specific consideration during planning and design to minimising the visual impacts of the Project on sensitive viewing locations. Specific mine planning decisions made in this regard include:
- Reducing the open cut mining footprint and limiting the duration of open cut mining activities
- Siting mine infrastructure between existing topographic features to achieve screening from sensitive external viewing locations, particularly in the main valley along the Growee River
- Planning for the implementation of progressive rehabilitation during open cut mining operations to reduce the visual effects of the overburden emplacement areas
- Retaining iconic high topographic points in the local landscape setting.
Tree cover and topography provide visual screening of the views of project elements from the Bylong Village, resulting in a low visual impact from this location.
A number of rural residences are located to the south of the Project; however, the closest of these are KEPCO-owned properties. Localised screening by intervening topography and woodland vegetation will eliminate views of the open cut mining areas and overburden emplacement areas from private residences further to the south.
The Noise and Blasting Impact Assessment prepared for the EIS and supplementary information indicate that the most significant noise-generating activities during construction are likely to include rail loop earthworks, installation of mine infrastructure, the upgrade and realignment of Upper Bylong Road and the establishment of open cut mining areas. Increased traffic noise will also be generated along Bylong Valley Way, Wollar Road and Upper Bylong Road at peak construction.
KEPCO has specifically made modifications to the Project’s mine plan to minimise noise impacts to private residences.
KEPCO has committed to the development of a real-time noise monitoring and management system as part of the comprehensive Noise Management Plan for the Project, which uses a combination of real-time monitoring and weather forecasting to predict and prevent noise exceedances.
Real-time noise management systems have proven effective in managing noise impacts at other open cut mines in New South Wales (NSW), particularly for residences where marginal exceedances are predicted in the modelling. With such a system in place, the NSW Department of Planning and Environment believes that the number of marginally affected properties could be further reduced.
Throughout the Project life, KEPCO would be required to independently investigate potential noise complaints and undertake applicable management measures and communicate mining operations with the community, including publicly reporting all monitoring results, and effectively responding to enquiries and complaints.
KEPCO has acquired almost all the properties likely to be affected by noise amenity impacts. However, to manage the noise impacts from the construction and operational activities, KEPCO will implement a Construction Noise and Vibration Management Plan and Noise Management Plan which will outline a number of mitigation strategies and monitoring mechanisms. Management measures include use of portable noise screens, maximising offset distances from noise sources, use of noise controls such as mufflers, and the use of new technology for vehicle reversing alarms instead of traditional tonal alarms.
The Noise and Blasting Impact Assessment and subsequent blast modelling indicated that no exceedances of the relevant criteria are predicted for private residences in the vicinity of the Project.
In order to manage potential blast impacts, a Blast Management Plan will be developed to consider specific mitigation measures for potentially impacted sites, including designing the blasts to meet vibration limits, protocols for complaints response, establishment of blast exclusion zones, regularly reviewing blast design, and undertaking blast monitoring activities.
KEPCO has made a commitment to undertake condition surveys of private residences (on request), sensitive heritage sites, rock features and sensitive infrastructure prior to blasting activities. It is expected that a maximum of six blasts per week will be undertaken during open cut mining operations for the Project.
During construction and operation of the Project, the greatest potential for air quality impacts will be generated from dust associated with activities such as vegetation clearing, bulk earthworks, haulage along unsealed roads, wind erosion, and blasting. To assess the potential impact of these activities, an Air Quality Impact Assessment and subsequent studies have been completed to assess potential air quality impacts at private residences in the vicinity of the Project. The Project will implement proven dust control measures to minimise air quality impacts.
The findings of the assessment indicate that no private residences are expected to experience any exceedances of the relevant air quality criteria, as prescribed by the Government.
Throughout the duration of the Project, KEPCO is committed to leading practice dust management through the use of a real-time and proactive air quality management system. This system enables mine operators to respond to the potential for unacceptable air quality impacts through the use of a network of real-time monitors.
KEPCO will also modify work practices to limit disturbance activities during periods of high winds, undertake progressive rehabilitation to minimise exposed areas, implement water suppression on exposed surfaces and on coal stockpiles, and moisten exposed coal being loaded into train wagons.
The Catholic Diocese of Bathurst ceased using the former Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Catholic Church and Cemetery at Upper Bylong in 2000 and in 2008 sold the site to an adjoining private landholder. That owner sold their land (including the former church and cemetery site) in 2010 to a pastoral company. The pastoral company (including its landholdings) was subsequently purchased by KEPCO in 2014.
The mine plan will ensure no direct impacts to the former Upper Bylong Catholic Church and cemetery. This means that there is no need to relocate the church building or graves for the purposes of the Project. KEPCO is committed to providing ongoing maintenance of the church and cemetery grounds.
A Conservation Management Plan will be prepared to manage the indirect impacts of the Project. A vibration strategy will also be developed for the former Upper Bylong Catholic Church and cemetery to document any relevant site-specific blast mitigation and management measures.
The cemetery does not fall within the proposed mining footprint and the graves do not need to be relocated for the purposes of the Project. KEPCO and family members have worked closely together over an extended period of time to establish agreed necessary arrangements for the potential relocation of the graves. Although relocation of the graves is not required for the Project, KEPCO will support and act on behalf of the families in any relocation applications, if families preferred option is to relocate their ancestors’ graves.
The remains of five racehorses are known to be buried within the Tarwyn Park property, namely Rain Lover, Eleazar, Colourman, Ngawyni and Crazy Moon. Rain Lover won two consecutive Melbourne Cups in 1968 and 1969, and Ngawyni won the Australian Cup in 1977. It is KEPCO’s preference for the horses’ remains to remain in situ.
Former Bylong Upper Public School
The New South Wales Department of Education (DoE) placed the Bylong Upper Public School in recess in December 2014 due to no enrolments for 2015 and a progressive decline in student numbers over several years. After investigating the feasibility of the school, DoE took the decision to close it in the second half of 2015.
The former Bylong school building is located within one of the Bylong Coal Project’s proposed open cut mining areas and will need to be removed if the Project is granted development consent.
In the years prior to the school's closure, KEPCO liaised with DoE regarding future options for the school, including support for the design, planning and reasonable funding for the relocation or reconstruction of school facilities at an alternative site. The relocation of the school was KEPCO’s preferred option.
KEPCO subsequently purchased the school from DoE.