A proposal to extend the Dendrobium coal mine has been declared State Significant Infrastructure by the NSW government, which says it wants to give communities certainty for the future.
NSW Deputy Premier and Resources Minister Paul Toole said the decision was based on the mine's importance to Port Kembla steelworks and its thousands of employees.
"Dendrobium is a critical source of coking coal for the Port Kembla steelworks and the decision to declare the project SSI will provide thousands of workers with greater certainty on the future of their jobs," Mr Toole said.
"This decision recognises the proposal's potential economic benefits, with the mine already contributing $1.9 billion to the NSW economy each year, employing 4,500 workers and supporting another 10,000 jobs across the Illawarra."
At the same time, the NSW Government confirmed it would rule out future coal exploration in the Hawkins and Rumker areas in the state's central west, referring to significant commercial, logistical, and social constraints.
NSW Planning Minister Rob Stokes said the Dendrobium mine proposal will now go through a rigorous assessment process and the community will still have their say.
Proponents South32 can now request assessment requirements to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement which will then go on public exhibition for community feedback and detailed assessment.
The decision was hailed as a bold and positive step by the NSW Minerals Council, which said it would protect thousands of jobs, and help secure the long term economic future of the Illawarra region.
CEO Stephen Galilee said the project was in the best interests of NSW.
Australian Associated Press