A decision to reject a proposed coal mine extension has prompted calls for the authority to be abolished.
A decision to reject a proposed coal mine extension has prompted calls for the authority to be abolished.

‘Unforgivable’ coal call will cost 4000 jobs

Nationals leader John Barilaro has called for the state's independent planning authority to be abolished, describing its decision to reject a proposed coal mine extension near Wollongong as "unforgivable".

The Deputy Premier said he would be seeking legal advice to determine if the decision - which will cost costs thousands of jobs - could be overturned

Mining giant South32 had sought to extract an additional 78 million tonnes of coal from its Dendrobium mine, which the company declared was worth almost $3 billion to the NSW economy.


However, the NSW Independent Planning Commission on Friday rejected the proposal on the grounds it risked irreversible damage to Sydney's drinking water given the ­location of its two sites, near Avon and Cordeaux dams. 

Describing the decision as "one of the most destructive" since the commission was formed, Mr Barilaro said it was time the authority was disbanded altogether.

"This unelected body won't help us out of the COVID economic disaster and will ­single-handedly destroy thousands of jobs, kill investment, and destroy any hope for a manufacturing revival," Mr Barilaro said.

"I'll be seeking urgent legal advice to find whatever avenues we have to override this decision, and I call on the Labor Opposition to back the government in whatever way to get this approved.

"Today's decision has the potential loss of 750 mining jobs, 3000 steel jobs and $10.7 billion annually to the economy. But I'll fight this decision. I'll stand with the coal workers. I'll stand with the steel workers. I'll stand with the communities of Wollongong and the Illawarra."

Mr Barilaro said the project should be categorised Critical State Significant with Cabinet to approve it.

The NSW Department of Planning had only last year recommended the approval of the expansion, declaring it would provide "major economic and social benefits".

However, the IPC declared the risks posed to Greater Sydney's drinking water catchment were too high.

NSW Minerals Council chief executive Stephen Galilee described the decision as "a dagger at the heart" of the Illawarra economy, which would cost billions in investment and thousands of jobs.

The Dendrobium Extension Project had been subject to a "rigorous whole-of-government assessment process" over 19 months that found the project was "approvable" with its benefits found to "significantly outweigh its residual costs", he said.


Of the 13 departments and agencies that had participated in this assessment process, just two opposed.

"This outcome raises significant questions about the actual role of the Department of Planning and creates uncertainty for future project assessments, with potential impacts on investment and jobs for NSW," Mr Galilee said.

Opposition natural resources spokesman Paul Scully said the decision to reject rather than place stringent conditions on Dendrobium's application to extend its operations would come as a surprise "and cause uncertainty" for many in the Illawarra.

Originally published as 'Unforgivable' coal call will cost 4000 jobs