Glencore’s massive NSW coal project gets conditional approval

New South Wales, Australia. Image by Peabody.

The New South Wales government’s Independent Planning Commission (IPC) has approved, with conditions, Glencore’s A$381 million United Wambo coal project in the Australian state’s Hunter Valley.  

The United and Wambo coal mining operations were established in 1989 and the late 1960’s, respectively. There have been a range of underground and open cut coal mining operations at both since.

In 2014, Peabody agreed to establish an unincorporated joint venture project with Glencore to combine the existing operations of the Wambo open-cut mine with the adjacent coal reserves of Glencore’s United mine.

In 2018, 3.6 million tonnes of coal were sold from the Wambo open cut mine, resulting in A$950 million in direct and indirect economic benefits.

But Glencore bowed to investor pressure when it pledged to limit coal production and align the business with Paris climate targets. 

The main customers for Wambo coal are in Japan, Korea and China.

Now United Wambo plans to develop an open-cut mine producing up to 10 million tonnes per year.  

Joining the United and Wambo mines creates a ‘super pit’, with the ability to inject A$414 million into the New South Wales economy

Glencore’s United Collieries sought to integrate and expand open cut mining operations at the existing United Wambo to facilitate the extraction of an additional 150-million tonnes of run-of-mine (ROM) coal over a 23- year period.  

The United mine, under care and maintenance and Wambo mine are located about 16 kilometres west of Singleton, and ABC reported that joining the two creates a ‘super pit,’ with the ability to inject A$414 million into the New South Wales economy.   

After concluding the United Wambo project is “in the public interest,” in an unprecedented move, one of the IPC’s conditions is that any coal extracted from the new ‘super pit’ can only be exported to countries that have ratified the Paris climate agreement or have policies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, ABC reported.