Austar Coal Mine Pty Ltd (Austar), a subsidiary of Yancoal Australia Limited (Yancoal), operates the Austar Coal Mine, an underground coal mine located approximately 10 kilometres southwest of Cessnock in the Lower Hunter Valley in NSW. Austar incorporates the former Pelton, Ellalong, Cessnock No. 1 (Kalingo) and Bellbird South Collieries and includes coal extraction, handling, processing and rail and road transport facilities. Pit top facilities are located on Middle Road, Paxton, and the Coal Handling and Preparation Plant (CHPP) is located at Wollombi Road, Pelton.
Surface operations include the Pit Top facilities (including administration buildings, the main access drift, coal clearance, store, workshop and laydown facilities), No 1 shaft (second egress man winder), No 2 shaft (mine dewatering), Kalingo Infrastructure Area (ventilation fans and underground services), the CHPP area (including CHPP, administration areas, Reverse Osmosis plant, overland conveyor and a number of heritage listed buildings in various states of repair), coarse reject emplacement areas (Aberdare, Area 12 and Area 13) and Kitchener Surface Infrastructure Site (ventilation shafts and fans, services borehole/drophole).
Underground Mining is undertaken in two distinct areas: Stage 2 and Bellbird South (covered by Development approval 29/95), and Stage 3 mining area, which includes the underground longwall panels and the Surface Infrastructure Site at Kitchener (covered by Project Approval 08_0111). Approved Mining Operations Plans and Extraction Plans are also required over current mining areas prior to the commencement of mining in each area. These plans are linked below.
To facilitate Major Projects Approvals, environmental impact assessments are undertaken. A summary of each approved area is provided in the text below. Environmental Assessment documentation is located under the Environment tab.
The Pit Top and Coal Handling and Preparation Plant areas are covered under existing Cessnock City Council approvals.
Mining in the Bellbird South area was approved by the Minister for Urban Affairs and Planning in 1996. Yancoal purchased the mine in 2004 and renamed it Austar Coal Mine. Austar lodged a modification (Mod 1) in early 2006 to allow the use of Longwall Top Coal Caving Technology (LWTCC) in Longwall panels A1 and A2 (known as Stage 1) and the construction and operation of new infrastructure. Mining in Stage 1 commenced in 2006 and was completed in December 2008.
Stage 2 mining area covers Longwalls A3 to A5a. These longwalls are located beneath privately held small rural residential properties in Quorrobolong. Modification 2 to approval 29/95(Mod 2) was lodged in September 2007 to enable continued use of LWTCC in Longwalls A3, A4 and A5. Further modifications for the Stage 2 area were lodged to:
- increase void widths and chain pillars in LWA4 and A5 in February 2009 (Mod 3), and
- use LWTCC in Longwall panel LWA5a in July 2010(Mod 4), and
- lengthen LW A5a by around 127 metres (Mod 5).
Mining in Stage 2 commenced in February 2009 and was completed in January 2013.
Bellbird South LWB1-LWB7 mining area comprises seven longwall panels beneath privately held and Austar owned small rural residential properties in Quorrobolong within the Bellbird South and Ellalong Colliery areas. A modification (Mod 6) to extend the Bellbird South consent area to cover three conventional longwall panels (LWB1-B3), and extend the life of the Bellbird South Consent by 5 years to allow time for extraction was approved on 29 January 2016. A further modification (Mod 7) to permit extraction of four additional longwall panels (LWB4-B7) was approved on 25 August 2017. Longwall extraction commenced in LW B2 in July 2016 and was LW B3 was completed in August 2017.Operations are currently in Longwall B4.
Planning approval PA 08_0111 was granted by the NSW Minister for Planning in September 2009 to permit the extension of mining to the Stage 3 area (Longwalls A7 to A19), east of the Bellbird South operations. There have been three modifications to this approved mining area:
- Modification 1 (Mod 1) was an administrative modification that deleted two words from a condition of consent and was approved in May 2010.
- Modification (Mod 2) sought to reorient the longwall panels and was approved in March 2012.
- Modification 3(Mod 3) was approved in December 2013 to extend the length of Longwalls A7 to A10.
Longwall extraction in Stage 3 commenced in June 2013 in LWA7. LWA8 was completed in June 2015, followed by the Development of Longwalls B1 and B2.