Wilpinjong Coal have applied for an exploration licence (EL) as part of an existing exploration licence controlled by the NSW Government to the east of the Wollar village.
The application area is 16.76km2, which is approximately three per cent of the government-controlled EL6676 (562km2).
General manager, Blair Jackson, said that ELs are the first step in the mining process and that if they progressed to mining on three per cent of EL6676 – which Peabody owns – that they’d be able to use their existing infrastructure.
“[The application area] connects on the north and the eastern side of the [current] operation, then continues on out to the east of Wollar,” he said. “An exploration licence only gives you the right to explore the area for coal reserves. Which would entail drilling holes on a set pattern to determine what sort of coal is there, as far as quality and quantity. Then only when those results are in, and they’re favourable, then we move to the next stage which is applying for a mining lease. For us, it’s an area which is close to the existing operation and allows us to utilise the current infrastructure. And if it does come up favourable it would extend the employment to the current workforce and the supporting companies around Mudgee.”
Mr Jackson added that the EL process is “rigorous”, but believes they’ll be in a strong position.
“Obviously we’ll work out our application in accordance with that,” he said. “There’s a whole range of things that you’ve got to meet and certainly a key part of that is asking ‘out of all of the coal companies out there is Peabody the best suited to be given that exploration licence?’; how does it fit in with the current operations, is it contiguous; existing expertise – do we understand the geology and have a track record.”