Dendrobium Mine Expansion given ‘State Significant Infrastructure’ status by NSW Govt

Following rejection of the South32 Dendrobium Mine Extension proposal by the Independent Planning Commission in February 2021, the NSW Government has granted the proposal State Significant Infrastructure (SSI) status. This effectively overrules its own independent planning approvals processes.

SSI status means that the Planning Minister will have the final say in approving or rejecting the project, with no right of appeal open to the community.

Kelly Fuller from ABC Illawarra wrote an excellent article on this development, which you can read here.

Direct action starts at Russell Vale Mine

Three actions in the space of a week have targeted Wollongong Coal’s Russell Vale Mine.

Firstly, a Picnicket by group Stop Russell Vale Mine – read the Mercury article here

Secondly, a 40-car strong car convoy by Illawarra Climate Justice Alliance – read the Mercury article here

Thirdly, a Pram Picket by Extinction Rebellion Northern Illawarra – read the Mercury article here

EDO clients Protect Our Water Catchment Inc apply to fight South32’s appeal in the Land and Environment Court

Originally posted on the EDO website, 02/07/2021

Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) clients Protect Our Water Catchment (POWC) have applied to join legal proceedings so they can defend the refusal of a coal mine extension south of Sydney. 

In February 2021, the New South Wales Independent Planning Commission (IPC) rejected the expansion application by South 32, to extend the life of its Dendrobium mine, near Wollongong. 

It found the controversial proposal, that was opposed by Water NSW due to its potential impacts on Sydney’s drinking water catchment, was against the interests of intergenerational equity. 

South 32’s subsidiary, Illawarra Coal Holdings Pty Ltd, lodged a NSW Land and Environment Court judicial review against the refusal decision in May.  POWC, represented by EDO, have applied to join the case and defend the IPC’s decision. 

EDO Managing Lawyer Sean Ryan said “Our clients POWC, join Water NSW and the wider community in holding serious concerns about the impact of this mine on Sydney’s drinking water catchment. 

“The people of Sydney and the Illawarra have already faced water restrictions twice in two decades due to drought. Climate change will mean more frequent and severe droughts for eastern Australia. 

“On top of that, the IPC found that the greenhouse gas emissions from this mine would be significant at over 250 million tonnes over the life of the project.  In POWC’s view, this is inconsistent with Paris Climate Agreement goals of limiting global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius, preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels. 

“We are representing POWC in their efforts to join this appeal to defend the IPC’s decision, which correctly led to the refusal of this project.” 


The Dendrobium mine, near Wollongong, was approved in 2002 and can produce up to 5.2 million tonnes of ROM coal per year. 

South32 had sought planning approval to extend the life and footprint of its Dendrobium mine until the end of 2048 and extract an additional 78 million tonnes of coal. This would have resulted in over 250 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions over the life of the project.  

Based on expert advice presented to the IPC, the IPC rejected the expansion plans for the coal mine finding that the proposed mine risked long-term and irreversible damage to the Greater Sydney and the Illawarra’s drinking water catchment. 

The IPC also found that the project’s subsidence effects were likely to be significant, resulting in the degradation of 25 watercourses and swamps in Sydney’s drinking water catchment, detrimental impacts to biodiversity and threatened ecological communities such as upland swamps, and negative impacts on Aboriginal cultural artefacts and values.   

The IPC decided that “the loss of good quality water for future generations of Greater Sydney and the Illawarra Regions, the loss of biodiversity and Aboriginal cultural heritage all combine to a significant loss that one generation would be passing on to future generations” was inconsistent with the principle of intergenerational equity. 

The IPC found that the greenhouse gas emissions from the project would be significant, although it refused the project on other grounds. 

Federal Government Approval for Russell Vale Mine expansion delayed by at least a month

The recent “Sharma Case”, Sharma v Minister for the Environment, where the Court rules the Minister owes a duty of care to protect young people from the human health impacts of climate change, has impacts on the approvals necessary to recommence work at the Russell Vale Colliery.

The Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) has written to the Federal Environment Minister, Sussan Ley, insisting she needs more information about the climate effects of the proposed Russell Vale expansion to make a decision following the Sharma Case. Minister Ley now has an extension until the 8th of July to decide whether to give the Russell Vale Mine approval under the Federal Environment Protection, Biodiversity and Conservation (EPBC) Act.

Make sure NSW Planning Minister Rob Stokes says “NO” to Wollongong Coal’s ‘do-nothing’ climate plan

Telephone the Minister on (02) 8574 6707 or write to him via his contact web form at:

POWA at HONK! festival, Wollongong, January 2020

Wollongong Coal Ltd is preparing a plan for management of greenhouse gas emissions (GHGEs) from Russell Vale Colliery. GHGEs will be produced as a result of diesel fuel use and electricity consumption on site. And as this is a ‘gassy’ mine, a lot of methane and carbon dioxide will be released. And then of course there’s the carbon pollution that occurs when the coal is transported and burnt.

Although it has a relatively small coal output, Russell Vale Mine is among the top 100 Scope 1 greenhouse gas emitters in Australia.

But the draft GHG management plan reveals WCL does not want to commit to any action to reduce any of these emissions.

The carefully worded draft plan says WCL will “consider” efficiency if they purchase new equipment, “review renewable energy opportunities”, “track… electricity bills” and similar actions, the outcomes of which are neither measurable nor enforceable.

There are no plans at all to minimise, avoid or mitigate any of the fugitive emissions from this expansion. Fugitive emissions comprise 99.6% of all Scope 1 emissions for this development. The 1,412,900 tonnes of fugitive GHG emissions are equivalent to the annual GHG footprint of more than 67,000 Australians.

At this time, we need to rapidly reduce GHG emissions. The NSW government must not let expanding coal mines off the hook.

Will you write to the NSW Minister for Planning, Rob Stokes and ask him to ensure that WCL will be required to implement real concrete, transparent and measurable GHG mitigation at Russell Vale mine?

“Any single source of greenhouse gas emissions is a small fraction of the total, yet the cumulative, shared problem of climate change is enormous and quite possibly existential.”(1)

The NSW government doesn’t require coal miners to take responsibility for the Scope 3 emissions released in the burning of the coal they’ve mined (86.3% of GHG emissions from this mine). At the very least, Minister Stokes should require concrete, measurable reductions of Scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions from the Russell Vale Mine expansion. And the Scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions which cannot be reduced should be 100% offset by Wollongong Coal.

Please phone or write to the NSW Minister for Planning now and ask him to reject Wollongong Coal’s ‘do-nothing’ draft GHG plan and instead, to ensure real, measurable and enforceable reductions from the Russell Vale Mine expansion.

Your message can be as long or short as you like and should:

(1) refer to Draft Russell Vale Colliery Air Quality and Greenhouse Gas Management Plan;

(2) demand actions that are concrete, transparent and measurable to reduce the project’s GHG emissions, including fugitive emissions;

(3) demand that emissions be offset if technology is not available for mitigation emissions; and

(4) request a response to your communication.

Telephone the Minister on (02) 8574 6707 or write to him via his contact web form at:

(1) Expert Report on the Greenhouse Gas and Climate Implications of the Narrabri Gas Project (SSD-6456), Professor Penny D Sackett, Honorary Professor, Climate Change Institute, The Australian National University, Advice Provided to IPC NSW re Narrabri Gas Project: 9 August 2020, pg 3