The Moolarben coal project is in the western coalfields of NSW about 40 km north-east of Mudgee. The disturbance limit granted under the project approval, and the later modifications to it, was preventing the extraction and recovery of large amounts of economically viable coal deposits. Although the proposed modification was mainly intended so the coal could be mined, it also provided an opportunity to improve the efficiency of mining operations.
EMM’s closure, rehabilitation and soils team prepared an agricultural impact assessment for the project, which was required as part of the approvals process for the proposed modification. Our desktop analysis was based on a soil survey reported in Soil, Rural Land Capability and Agricultural Suitability Assessment of the Moolarben Coal Project. The survey was designed to provide enough information on land resources to identify the soil family, land capability and land suitability.
The agricultural impact statements were novel because the evaluation of biophysical strategic agricultural land (BSAL) had not been mapped for the region and was determined using the draft BSAL guidelines, thereby supplementing knowledge gaps based on our experience with soils in the region. The agricultural impact statements (AIS) were used to assess the potential risks to agriculture and propose mitigation that considers all stakeholders interested in access to land and mineral resources, at both a local and regional scale.