June 21, 2019 / 7:53 AM / 3 months ago

S.Korean firm wins mining leases for long-delayed Australian coal project

MELBOURNE, June 21 (Reuters) - An Australian state on Friday granted mining leases for a coal mine controlled by Korea Resources Corp (KORES), clearing the way for a project that green groups and some local communities have battled for more than a decade.

The final approval from the New South Wales (NSW) state government follows a surprise victory for the pro-coal conservative government in an Australian election in which climate change had been a key issue.

“The project involves a capital investment of over A$800 million ($554 million) and will create more than 1,700 direct and indirect jobs,” the state’s government said in a statement on the mining lease approval on Friday.

The election outcome has put pressure on state governments that had been opposed to new coal mines to clear the way for projects that have long been held up, to create new jobs.

“This is a very positive sign that the recently re-elected NSW Government is serious about backing regional jobs and investment during the term of this Parliament,” said New South Wales Minerals Council Chief Executive Stephen Galilee.

Neighbouring Queensland state last week cleared the way for Indian conglomerate Adani Enterprises’ Carmichael mine.

KORES, leading the Wyong Areas Coal Joint Venture, plans to dig an underground mine to produce up to 5 million tonnes a year of thermal coal for power stations over 28 years, aiming to start production in late 2022 or early 2023, project manager Kenny Barry said.

“We were very pleased with today’s outcome, following what’s been a very exhaustive evaluation process over a number of years,” Barry told Reuters.

He predicted that most of the coal would be exported to Southeast Asian nations, but said some could go to local power stations.

The Wallarah 2 coal project won environmental approval in January 2018, with strict measures to prevent damage to local drinking water, a major issue raised by the project’s opponents.

“Wallarah 2 has been one of the most scrutinised mining projects in NSW history, subjected to repeated assessment over a ridiculous 16-year period, including by independent scientific experts, the Department of Planning, and the Independent Planning Commission, before receiving a positive determination last year,” Galilee said in a statement.

$1 = 1.4447 Australian dollars Reporting by Sonali Paul; Editing by Joseph Radford

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