Protecting Wilderness and National Parks

Coalpac proposal to mine in the Gardens of Stone is back from the dead

Colong Foundation for Wilderness  Blue Mountains Conservation Society  Nature Conservation Council  Lithgow Environment Group

Environment groups are outraged that a company under administration has lodged an application to restart and expand a coal mine in the Gardens of Stone near Lithgow that is very similar to a project that has been rejected already by state planning bodies.

Today Coalpac Pty Ltd has placed on public exhibition a development application under the NSW Environmental Planning and Assessment Act to mine 315 hectares of the Ben Bullen State Forest, next to the township of Cullen Bullen. 

The project is the latest version of a proposal to mine the beautiful pagoda country that the Department of Planning and Infrastructure and Planning Assessment Commission have rejected because unacceptable environmental impacts.

“Proposals to expand existing mining operations in this area have already been rejected by the government agencies following a strong grassroots campaign,” Nature Conservation Council of NSW CEO Pepe Clarke said.

“It is very disappointing that Coalpac has been permitted to submit new plans to destroy a significant area in the Gardens of Stone region, an area that the Office of Environment and Heritage has recommended should be protected in a conservation reserve.

“The planning system in NSW should provide certainty to the community, but this latest twist in Coalpac tale serves only to undermine public confidence that the government is putting the interests of the environment and the wider community ahead of the powerful mining industry.”

Mr Keith Muir, director of the Colong Foundation for Wilderness, warned that mining companies had a history of lodging applications for small projects that they expand through a series of modifications.

“We fear that this is exactly what will happen in this case if this ill-conceived project is approved,” Mr Muir said. “Mining the Ben Bullen State Forest should not be allowed to progress in stages, when the overall scheme was found to be inappropriate only last year.

 “The new proposal is only to get the project rolling, and has nothing to do with funding rehabilitation as the company has claimed.”

Ms Tara Cameron, Senior Vice President of the Blue Mountains Conservation Society, said:  “Coalpac argues that the mine is needed to pay for environmental rehabilitation of new and historical damage. This reveals that Coalpac has not rehabilitated land as required by previous mine approvals. How can this company be trusted?

“This new plan will exterminate all plants and wildlife within the open-cut area. This habitat is home to lyrebirds, spotted-tail quolls, squirrel gliders, the critically endangered leek orchid and the grey-headed flying fox. The Ben Bullen State Forest is a precious pagoda wonderland that must be reserved.”

Chris Jonkers, Vice President of the Lithgow Environment Group said: “Coalpac claims that, unlike its earlier proposal, this mine will not have a significant impact on threatened species and communities listed under the federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act

“The company makes this claim even though the mine area overlaps and lies within the previous open-cut plan.

“The endangered persoonia marginata has been found within the area but was not identified in Coalpac’s reports.  The reliability of mapping done by Coalpac’s consultants has recently been questioned and reported by Radio National’s Background Briefing program, The trouble with offsets, aired March 16.”

Media contacts
Nature Conservation Council – Media Officer James Tremain, 0419 272 254.

Colong Foundation for Wilderness - Director Keith Muir, 0412 791 404.

Blue Mountains Conservation Society - Senior Vice President Tara Cameron, 0419 824 974.

Lithgow Environment Group - Vice President Chris Jonkers 6355 1179.

More information

Background information

See below.

BACKGROUND:  Coalpac Pty Limited Cullen Bullen coal mine


Chronology of modifications

•             Invincible Open Cut Mine Extension (05_0065):  7 September 2006 – Frank Sartor

•             Invincible Open Cut Mine - Modification 1 (Part3AMod):  4 June 2007 – Frank Sartor

•             Invincible Colliery Coal Augering  (05_0065 MOD 2):  6 December 2007 – Chris Wilson

•             Invincible Coal Project (07_0127): 4 December 2008 – Kristina Keneally

•             Open Cut Expansion Project (07_0127 MOD  1): 12 January 2009 – Chris Wilson

•             Open Cut Expansion Project  (07_0127 MOD  2):  12 August 2009 – Chris Wilson

•             Open Cut Extension Project (07_0127 MOD  3):  8 October 2010 – David Kitto


Development Application is for the modification of Invincible Colliery and
Cullen Valley Mine

The proposed expansion of open cut-coal mining seeks to modify and expand two existing coal mines that are currently in care and maintenance impacting an area of a little over 300 hectares.


Project chronology




3 April 2014

Coalpac exhibits a new Environmental Assessment for a modification to Invincible Colliery and Cullen Valley Mine over 315ha of Ben Bullen State Forest.


Coalpac Pty Ltd (Administrators Appointed) (Coalpac) owns and operates the Invincible Colliery and Cullen Valley Mine located approximately 25 km north-west of Lithgow in NSW and adjoining the village of Cullen Bullen (see Figure 1 of Env. Assmt. Vol. 1).


The mining proposal consists of open cut and highwall mining methods, and other associated mining related activities for the Invincible Colliery and Cullen Valley Mine. Development consent Modifications (the Modifications), exclude those approved under the existing approvals for the site under the NSW Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (EP&A Act). The proposed operation would run for 4 years (see Figure 3 of Env. Assmt. Vol. 1).


Exhibited Environmental Assessment - Modification 4 Mine Extension.

Exhibited Environmental Assessment - Modification 2 Mine Extension.

Invincible Colliery and Cullen Valley Mine - Environmental Assessment, Modifications to PA 07_127 (MOD4) and DA 200_5_2003 (MOD2) for Coalpac Pty, March 2014.

3rd March 2014 Federal Department of Environment decides the development modifications are not a controlled action  

4th March 2014

Coalpac lodges a referral under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act a new proposal to start mining again. Proposal identical to the modifications on exhibition.


Coalpac EPBC Act referral for proposed development modifications.

November 2013

Second meeting of creditors now due 31 January following a postponement of proceedings granted by the Supreme Court.


Judgment describes the Coalpac and subsidiary companies in administration and the relationship of Coalpac to ANZ and Energy Australia


Judgment relating to administration.

30 October 2013

Company goes into receivership. First meeting of creditors.



16 October 2013

Soon after the Planning Department recommendation, the company withdrew its proposal rather than proceeding to final hearing and decision by a second Planning Assessment Commission. 



Withdrawal of Application

October 2013

NSW Department of Planning and Infrastructure recommends refusal.


Note: two short addendums to refusal recommendation are made. The second addendum states that there ‘may be merit in allowing a smaller extension that avoids the most sensitive parts of the site’ (26/9/13).


Coalpac Consolidation Project Director General's Report Summary


July 2013

Coalpac to address the objections of PAC 1 submits a revised application to the Department of Planning and Infrastructure.

Coalpac Consolidation Project Description Revised Project

December 2012

The Planning Assessment Commission recommends refusal of the proposal.



Coalpac Consolation Project Review Main Report

September 2012

The company’s environmental breaches are documented.

Attached. Titled: Briefing- Coalpac Pty Ltd's Environmental Management History

October 2010

Expansion proposal submitted to the Planning Department

Coalpac Consolidation Project Application Form


Overview of the Coalpac project expansion proposals


2010 proposal

Rejected by the Planning Assessment Commission 1

2013 proposal

Submitted to to address the objections of PAC 1.

New Proposal

As outlined in the Environmental Assessment of March 2014.



Coalpac Pty Ltd sought to significantly extend and integrate its open-cut mine by consolidating its Cullen Valley Mine and Invincible Colliery operations, so as to operate for a further 21 years.


Coalpac Pty Ltd seeks to extend its open-cut mine and develop high wall mining.


Area affected

1088 hectares


958 hectares, with more highwall mining and less open cut

Open cut 665ha

Highwall 293ha

Total     958



Open Cut (Ha)

Highwall (Ha)






Cullen Valley









See pages 1 and 3 Env. Assmt. Vol1, 2014.

What would be lost

Publicly reserved forest, mainly old growth forest and high conservation value wildlife habitat, would have been destroyed, harming threatened species and ecological communities.


Also, It would have resulted in removal of 196 hectares of forest containing vulnerable Eucalyptus cannonii. 40 hectares of Box Gum Woodland would be also destroyed, a Critically Endangered Ecological Community under the Federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act.



DoPI considered revised 2013 proposal has similar impacts to 2010 proposal. ‘significant biodiversity and geological features that are similar to those that have been protected in the nearby National Park Estate and World Heritage Area, and it has been identified as being potentially suitable for

inclusion in these larger conservation areas.’ DoPI 26/9/13

Nationally endangered plant Persoonia marginata found within the proposed disturbance boundary. Cumberland Ecology statement in the Env. Assmt. fails to acknowledge that P. marginata does occur within the proposed disturbance area boundary (page 3.25, Appendix C, Vol2).


The env. impacts are similar to the original proposal, for example the DA is within a reserve proposal under consideration by NPWS.



For more detail see


It would have produced up to 3.5 million tonnes of coal a year for 21 years

It would have produced up to 3.5 million tonnes of coal a year for 21 years

Low grade coal produced at a maximum rate of up to 2.2 Mtpa for 4 years, under modifications of existing consents that do not seek to vary existing production rates.


Note: the high quality Lithgow Seam has been mined by underground methods in the area subject to the modifications.