Department of the Environment

Archived media releases and speeches

The Hon Tony Burke MP

Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities

Conditional approvals granted for Maules Creek, Boggabri and Gloucester projects

Media release
11 February 2013

Environment Minister, Tony Burke, has given conditional approval to the Maules Creek and Boggabri mine proposals, and the Gloucester coal seam methane gas project, subject to strict conditions and further work to minimise their potential environmental impacts.

Mr Burke said with the conditions in place and subject to further work being agreed, he is satisfied the projects can go ahead without unacceptable impacts on matters protected under national environmental law.

“In each of these three additional approvals there is more work to be concluded before the project can actually proceed,” Mr Burke said.

“As the conditions make clear where more work, new plans or further modelling needs to take place, then this must be carried out to my satisfaction.

“It has always been my preference to minimise the number of planning and modelling processes which have to continue after a decision has been made because I want companies to be able to determine whether or not a project will go ahead on the basis of the conditions they see in my decision.

“Unfortunately the decision of the New South Wales Government to leak commercially sensitive information has caused me to have to bring these decisions forward today with the remaining work to be resolved directly between the company and myself.

“The development of these further conditions will be conducted without reference to the NSW Government, which is unfortunate but a decision that they have effectively made for themselves.”

Mr Burke said he had considered advice from the Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Coal Seam Gas and Coal Mining on the water-related impacts of the developments, as required by law.

The Maules Creek and Boggabri mine proposals have been conditionally approved subject to strict conditions.

“In considering these proposals I have taken into account their likely impacts on the critically endangered ecological community including the white box, yellow box, blakely’s red gum, grassy woodland and native grassland and listed endangered and migratory species, in particular, the swift parrot, regent honey-eater and greater long-eared bat,” Mr Burke said.

“The companies must now work together to minimise their cumulative impacts on the Leard State Forest and to maximise their biodiversity outcomes through their required offsets.

“Proposed offsets for the surrounding Leard State Forest aim to build up vegetation and create corridor linkages between the two projects, to protect native species.

Together, the approval conditions for the two projects:

  • put in place strict clearance limits for native vegetation
  • provide enduring protection of offset areas totalling more than 15,000 hectares for matters protected under national environmental law, delivering secure and long term conservation across the region
  • require management plans to improve the extent, condition and connectivity of the ecological community and listed threatened species habitats, and
  • require $2.5 million dollars of investment in rehabilitation research and contributions to threatened species recovery actions
  • The Gloucester project has been conditionally approved subject to 36 strict conditions to minimise its potential environmental impacts.

“I have looked at the indirect impacts on matters of national environmental significance, for example, where salty groundwater or gas may move into watercourses that contain nationally protected frog habitat,” Mr Burke said.

“In particular, my approval requires the development of a hydrogeological model based on further field studies and analyses. This exercise is critical to thoroughly understanding the interaction between local features such as faults, coal seams and aquifers.

“Given the importance of this work in understanding and protecting the local water systems from coal seam gas impacts, commercialisation of the operation will not occur until this work has been done.

“This approach is consistent with the advice of the Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Coal Seam Gas and Large Coal Mining Development.”

Further information is available at www.environment.gov.au/cgi-bin/epbc/epbc_ap.pl?name=current_referral_detail&proposal_id=4432

Further information on Maules Creek can be found at www.environment.gov.au/cgi-bin/epbc/epbc_ap.pl?name=current_referral_detail&proposal_id=5566 and further information on Boggabri is at www.environment.gov.au/cgi-bin/epbc/epbc_ap.pl?name=current_referral_detail&proposal_id=5256.

The advice of the Independent Expert Scientific Committee will be published on the committee’s website at www.environment.gov.au/coal-seam-gas-mining/index.html