Hunter mines running at 62% of approved capacity

Coal mines in the NSW Upper Hunter Valley extracted 150 million tonnes in 2020, 91 million tonnes less coal than their approved capacity of 241 million tonnes, according to new research released by the Australia Institute.

The Australia Institute report also estimates the cost of filling in the Hunter’s mine voids at between $11 billion and $25 billion, well above the $3 billion in environmental bonds held by the NSW Government.

Key Findings:

  • Mines in the Upper Hunter have approval to extract a total 241 million tonnes of coal per year but just 150 million tonnes was mined in 2020, this equates to 62% of capacity.
  • Hunter coal sales peaked in 2014 and stayed below 2013 levels despite some growth in 2020.
  • Should current or future generations need to fill in the 23 mine voids to be left behind by current coal mines, the total cost could reach $25 billion, far exceeding the $3 billion paid in environmental bonds by the NSW Government.

“The fact that the Hunter’s coal mines are producing nearly 100 million tonnes per year less than they are approved to shows there is absolutely no need for any new coal mines,” said Rod Campbell, research director at the Australia Institute.

“This research undermines the case for new coal projects as existing approvals can easily meet existing and likely future demand. The key reason for this gap is that the world is not demanding all this coal.

“The NSW Government’s own data shows that Hunter coal sales peaked in 2014. The world has been telling us for years that it intends to use less coal in the future, but NSW Governments have not been listening.

“Instead, NSW governments have been listening to coal companies and their claims that they can’t afford to clean up the mess they leave behind.

“The voids that the Hunter will be left with represent a multi-billion dollar subsidy to multinational coal companies, one that will be borne by future generations living in the Hunter.”

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