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					                                        ASSESSMENT REPORT

                                     PROPOSED MODIFICATION
                                      RIXS CREEK COAL MINE
__________________________________________________________________________

SUMMARY

Bloomfield Collieries Pty Limited (the Applicant) is seeking to modify the Minister’s consent for the Rix’s Creek
coal mine (Rix’s Creek).

This modification would allow Rix’s Creek to receive, process and transport a 25,000 tonne bulk coal sample
from the Bickham coal exploration project (Bickham), near the town of Murrurundi.

The proposal will not change the scale or environmental impact of approved activities at Rix’s Creek.

The Department has assessed the proposed modification, and recommends that the Minister modify the
consent.

BACKGROUND

On 16 October 1995, the Minister for Urban Affairs and Planning approved a development application from the
Applicant for the Rix’s Creek open cut coal mine and associated surface facilities (DA 49/94).

Rix’s Creek is located 8 km to the northwest of Singleton, in the Singleton local government area (see Plan 1). It
has a workforce of 97 full-time employees, and produces approximately 1.8 million tonnes of Run-of-Mine
(ROM) coal per year.

On 28 January 2004, the Minister for Mineral Resources approved, under Part 5 of the EP&A Act, a proposal
from Bickham Coal Pty Ltd (Bickham) to extract a bulk coal sample of 25,000 tonnes from the Bickham
exploration area, and export it to Asia for trial burns.

While this proposal involved processing the coal at the Rix’s Creek coal mine and then transporting it from the
mine to the Port of Newcastle, Bloomfield does not have development consent to receive, process and transport
coal from any other mining operations.

In addition, the Minister for Mineral Resources did not have the jurisdiction for these aspects of the proposal, as
they relate to the operation of Rix’s Creek coal mine, and not exploration activities at the Bickham exploration
area.

Consequently, Bloomfield is seeking to modify the development consent for the Rix’s Creek coal mine to allow it
to receive, process and transport the bulk coal sample from the Bickham exploration area.

PROPOSED MODIFICATION

The Applicant is seeking to modify its development consent for the Rix’s Creek coal mine to allow the mine to:
•     Receive up to 25,000 tonnes of coal from the Bickham exploration area, at a maximum rate of 500
      tonnes a day;
•     Process this coal at its Coal Handling & Preparation Plant (CHPP);
•     Transport the coal to the Port of Newcastle by rail; and
•     Dispose of any coal rejects .

ROM coal would be received for a relatively short time, nominally over a 12-week period, during daylight hours .

All works on the Rix’s Creek site including the storage, loading and internal transport of coal (see Plan 2) would
be undertaken by existing staff and, due to its relatively low volume, would not require any changes to existing
operations.
Coal would be processed in the Rix’s Creek CHPP, delivered by truck to the ROM stockpile pad and then, after
processing, carried by truck from the CHPP to the Rix’s Creek rail-loading facility, as is current practice.

The entire bulk sample equates to only 2 days throughput at the CHPP.

Recovery rates from the bulk sample are unknown at this stage and therefore the production of coal reject is
also unknown. Using a representative figure of 65% recovery (based on current recovery rates at Rix’s Creek), a
total of 8,750 tonnes of reject would be produced. Of this, 5,575 tonnes are estimated to be coarse reject and
2,975 tonnes to be tailings.

The material would be disposed of by currently approved methods at Rix’s Creek. The volume of coal reject is
minimal in comparison to the yearly throughput for the CHPP. In 2003, the Rix’s Creek CHPP processed 1.9
million tonnes of ROM coal, producing 0.7million tonnes of coal reject.

It is not expected that processing the bulk sample coal would affect the life of the emplacement areas for coarse
reject or tailings .

The Applicant has provided supporting documentation that has considered the proposed modification in respect
of the environmental impacts of the receipt, internal haulage, processing and loading of the Bickham bulk coal
sample onto rail for transport to the Port of Newcastle.

The documentation indicated that the original environmental assessment for Rix’s Creek was based on a
maximum movement of materials of 15 million bank cubic metres in any year.

In 2002, Rix’s Creek moved 9.04 million bank cubic metres of material, well-under the limit provided in its
development consent. Rix’s Creek will be able to accept the Bickham bulk coal sample (25,000 tonnes) and
remain within the limit.

The documentation also considered the following matters and found that the receipt and processing of the
Bickham bulk coal sample would not materially alter the environmental performance of Rix’s Creek mine in
respect of:
•     Dust emissions;
•     Noise emissions;
•     Spontaneous combustion;
•     Acid-forming potential of Bickham coal and interburden; and
•     Disposal of coal reject.

STATUTORY FRAMEWORK

Under section 96(1A) of the EP&A Act, a consent authority may, on application being made by the applicant,
modify a development consent if it is satisfied that the proposed modification is of minimal environmental impact,
and, that the development to which the consent as modified relates is substantially the same development as
the development for which consent was originally granted.

CONSULTATION

The Minister is not required to consult anyone on the proposed modification.

Nevertheless, the Department consulted with Singleton Shire Council, the Department of Environment &
Conservation, the Roads & Traffic Authority and the Department of Mineral Resources .

None of the agencies objected to the proposed modification of consent.

CONSIDERATION

The Department agrees with the assessment of impacts provided by the Applicant in the documentation
supporting the modification application.

The proposed receipt, processing and loading of product coal to rail of a 25,000 tonne bulk coal sample from
Bickham represents approximately 1.4% of the ROM coal handled and processed during a year. Consequently,
the variation in environmental impact at the mine is expected to be indistinguishable from current operations. No
additional ground will be disturbed and Rix’s Creek is prepared to operate within existing environmental
performance criteria of the current conditions of consent.
The Department’s view is that;
•     There will be no material change to currently approved operations on the Rix’s Creek mine site; and
•     There will be no material change to environmental impacts if the proposed modification is approved.

For these reasons, the Department is satisfied that the proposed modification will have minimal environmental
impact, and that the consent, as modified, would relate to substantially the same development.

Consequently, it believes the Minister should approve the proposed modification.

SECTION 79C

Section 79C of the EP&A Act sets out the matters that a consent authority must take into consideration when it
determines a DA.

The Department has assessed the proposed modification against these matters, and is satisfied that:
•     The proposal is generally consistent with the provisions of the relevant planning instruments;
•     The potential impacts of the proposal can either be mitigated or managed; and
•     The proposal is generally in the public interest.

RECOMMENDATION

It is recommended that the Minister:
1.        Consider this assessment report;
2.        Determine that the proposed modification is of minimal environmental impact;
3.        Determine the development consent, as modified, is substantially the same
          development as the development for which the consent was originally granted;
4.        Approve the proposed modification under section 96(1A) of the EP&A Act; and
5.        Sign the attached instrument of modification (Tag A).




David Kitto                                                   Sam Haddad
Manager                                                       Deputy Director-General
Mining and Extractive Industries

				
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